Lake Bachar, a 24-year-old right-hander, leads the Amarillo Sod Poodles in wins, ERA and strikeouts. On Saturday, the Sod Poodles are supporting their ace by staging Bachar Strong Night.
Bachar Strong Night has nothing to do with the Illinois native's on-field success, however. The evening functions as an organizational and community-wide show of encouragement for David Bachar, Lake's father, who was diagnosed with cancer in January 2018. The cancer, which originated in the esophagus and then spread, has resulted in a grueling and costly treatment regimen. David has recently undergone his 32nd round of chemotherapy.
The Sod Poodles, Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, are in the midst of their inaugural season at new HODGETOWN ballpark. On Saturday, they'll take the field in Padres throwback theme jerseys featuring #BacharStrong on the sleeve and the phrase "No One Fights Alone" on the back. This phrase became a Bachar (pronounced "Bocker") family rallying cry in the wake of David's cancer diagnosis.
"It's a motto my dad and my stepmom [Lisa] made up," said Bachar, who has an older brother named Chase. "Just to know that you're never in this alone. That whatever happens, you do it together."
As Bachar makes his way through the marathon that is a Minor League Baseball season, thoughts of his father are never far from his mind.
"My dad, he's always been supportive of me in all my sports. He helped me out a lot. Being in the backyard, rolling grounders, doing whatever he needed to do to help me get better," Bachar said. "He was diagnosed right before last season, so it was harder last year for sure. This past offseason I spent a lot of quality time with him, so it's been a little easier this year. I stay in good contact with him, and I know he's in good hands with my stepmom. It's easier knowing that he's well taken care of back home."
Bachar said that when the Sod Poodles first approached him several weeks ago with the idea to do Bachar Strong Night, his first reaction was "disbelief."
"I said, 'OK, for sure.' It took me by surprise, but I wanted to support my family," he said. "Amarillo and the Sod Poodles have taken us all in as a family this year. It's been really cool. ... My dad and stepmom, they keep telling me to make sure I tell everyone that they're so grateful. They sometimes don't have the words to express it. They never expected to be on this platform, and both are very excited to see the outcome. They're in full support, and to be able to spread awareness of this type of cancer is big."
Lake Bachar, pictured alongside his father, David.
The Sod Poodles' Bachar Strong jerseys will be auctioned off following Saturday's game, with proceeds going toward the Bachar family's medical expenses. The San Diego Padres donated a variety of items as well, including signed bats from Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer and a signed game-worn jersey from manager Andy Green. Additionally, Bachar Strong T-shirts will be available in the Sod Poodles team store.
"Me and my family are not ones to be asking for this kind of help, but this is a situation too good to deny," said Bachar. "It really helps. No one fights alone, and we're not in this alone. It's been really awesome and the whole team has been super-supportive. Guys have reached out when I needed to talk. It's really helpful."
Bachar Strong Night was organized over the course of the last several weeks, thanks to the work of Sod Poodles president Tony Ensor and his staff.
"Once I found out about Lake's story, I really wanted to do something. Our staff wanted to do something," said Ensor. "We were able to pull it together quickly. The stars align when you want to do something for somebody.
"Lake is an incredible young man, always helping us in the community and helping the team. Not only that, he's been the backbone of our pitching staff all year. The guy's a bulldog, and that's the mark of a great pitcher. Even when he doesn't have his best stuff he goes out there and competes. Lake's dad battles the way Lake pitches. Whether he has his best stuff or not, he's going to go out there and battle. He's been doing that through 32 chemo treatments. He's going to go out there and fight this thing."
This season has been full of memorable moments for Amarillo baseball fans, as the Sod Poodles are the first Minor League team to play in the Texas panhandle city since 1982. Once the story of the debut campaign has been written, Bachar Strong Night will surely stand out as one of its most memorable and heartfelt moments.
"It's such a touching story, and the father-son relationship is so special," said Ensor. "Lake this year has been resolute, fighting for his dad, and we're not going to let him battle alone."
"The Minor League Baseball life, you're away from your family the whole summer," Bachar said. "You can feel so far away. But with this, or in any aspect of life, you're not alone. There's always going to be someone there to help you get through it."