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Having a Field Day

Miami outfielder back in the lineup after cancer scare

By Jessica Hunt

Michael Burns, University of Miami. Photo: Richard Lewis / University of Miami (Florida)

The day Michael Burns returned to baseball, he wasn’t sure he was healthy enough. He had just been through more than a month of radiation treatments. His left femur was reinforced with a 17-inch titanium rod, and he feared the rod might break if he worked his legs too hard.

That first time he returned to uniform, the rod didn’t break — but his bat did after he swung late on a pitch in his first at-bat. By late in the game, when Burns ran to catch a fly ball in left field, he felt he had returned.

A bump on Burns’ leg had been diagnosed as myxoid liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in April 2016. He was in the middle of his sophomore season at Cisco Junior College in Texas and planned to transfer to Miami (Florida) in the fall to play for the Hurricanes. Surgery to remove the tumor was followed by an operation to insert the rod. Yet by June, he was playing with the Colorado Sox, a summer league team. “You got to find something you love in life, and baseball is what I love in my life right now,” he says. “That’s kind of how it brought me back.”

This year, Burns was the starting right fielder for the Hurricanes. “All of his teammates know what he has gone through and what it has taken for him to get here,” Miami associate head coach Gino DiMare says. “That in itself is inspiring to everyone.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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