Greenwich native Coffey playing baseball for Pace with a purpose

The locker that Andrew Coffey uses with the Pace University baseball team. — photo courtesy of Pace Univeristy

The locker that Andrew Coffey uses with the Pace University baseball team. — photo courtesy of Pace University

Editor’s Note: This article was authored by Brett Kurpit, writer for the Pace Chronicle, the student newspaper of Pace University. It appeared on the Chronicle’s web site on April 9:

Stand tall, or don’t stand at all.

Those are the words Andrew Coffey will live by for the rest of his life. They are the words that Pace’s second baseman heard from his mother when she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in November 2012.

Lana Lawrence, Coffey’s mother, lost her battle with cancer on August 11, 2013.  He had already watched his grandmother succumb to brain cancer shortly before his world would be spun upside down, yet again.

“I couldn’t help but break down and fall to my knees,” Coffey said.

Coffey, who transferred to Pace from Marietta College in Ohio prior to this year, grew up loving the game of baseball.  He was better at it than most sports, and his passion to play and compete at second base grew with age.  However, if it weren’t for his mother, he says, he might have given up on the sport.

“My mom came to all of my games when I was a kid, and she pushed me to be great in anything that made me happy,” Coffey said.  “Having her growing up was invaluable; she was the backbone of my life.”

The chemotherapy eventually prevented Coffey’s mother, who was in hospice at the time, from attending his games. Lawrence, however, still managed to do something for her son, who was playing summer baseball with the Greenwich Cannons, a junior legion team.

When Coffey was playing shortstop in a game that summer, his entire family, including his mother, appeared in the crowd during the fifth inning.

“I was so overwhelmed, I stopped the game entirely to run up to her and tell her how strong she was,” Coffey said. “I will never forget that moment.”

Coffey now wears number 5 on his jersey because it was his mother’s lucky number.  He firmly believes that everything happens for a reason, and that experiences like this will only make him stronger.

“I’ve known Andrew for a while because our families are friendly,” said sophomore finance major Chris Ragusa, who refers to Coffey as his cousin. “In all of this he’s just kept his head up, he kept going to college and didn’t let [his loss] affect him. It just shows that he’s so strong, and motivated.”

Add dedicated to the list, as well. During Lawrence’s chemotherapy treatments, Coffey would make the nine-hour drive from Ohio back to Greenwich, Connecticut to support Lawrence every weekend.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Coffey, who relied heavily on faith and positivity to get him through the turbulent times.  “My mother was everything to me. I wish I could have switched places with her, but that wasn’t God’s plan.”

Taped on the back wall of Coffey’s locker in Pace’s field house are three pictures that remind him who he’s really playing for.

“I think God gives his hardest battles for his toughest soldiers,” said Coffey.  “As my mother always said, tough times don’t last – tough people do.”

Bats  may crack and cleats can get scuffed,  but Coffey’s mitt remains tough, as he catches every curve ball thrown his way. Still, through it all, he chooses to “stand tall.”

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