Two nights ago in Punta Gorda, Josh Clemen tossed a complete game, striking out 12 Charlotte hitters and sweetening Manatee’s already sweet spring.
Thursday afternoon, amid the swaying palm trees at G.T. Bray, Clemen was in right field with the rest of his teammates, stretching out and limbering up before practice.
Two years ago, Clemen was going from doctor to doctor, listening to prognosis after prognosis, trying to find out why he wasn’t hungry, why he was feeling so feverish and why he was losing so much weight.
After eight months of tests and worry, the diagnosis was Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the intestines.
It cost Clemen 60 pounds, nearly 90 days of school and his entire sophomore baseball season.
“That was the worst part,” he said. “Everyone else was more worried about my health, but to me, I was more worried about missing baseball and being out here with the guys.”
Make no mistake — Clemen was worried about his health.
Imagine waking up every day feeling as if you have a fever. Imagine stepping on a scale and realizing you lost nearly a third of your body weight. Imagine walking into a doctor’s office only to have someone tell you, “We don’t know WHAT it is.”
“I started getting fevers every night, but I just kept pushing it off. I had a lot of stuff going on — baseball, school and what not,” Clemen said. “Then I started losing weight, so my mom was like, ‘All right, we’ve got to go get this checked out.’”
Finally, after a trip to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, the riddle was solved. With it came some semblance of relief.
“It is a serious disease, and it’s with me my whole life,” Clemen said. “But absolutely — I was like, ‘OK, I can live with it, I know what it is, and I can go on with my life now.’”
He’s doing just that. His appetite came back days after Clemen began taking medication, and coupled with a steady diet of exercise, he began to regain the weight he lost. Every six weeks, Clemen heads back to All Children’s for an intravenous infusion, and while Crohn’s disease affects everyone differently, Clemen keeps an eye on what he eats and doesn’t indulge in too many spicy foods.
This spring, he anchors a Manatee team that takes an 8-1 record into tonight’s Class 5A-District 10 game against visiting Venice, and in January, he signed a letter of intent with State College of Florida.
He’s happy, healthy and has a stable of supportive teammates — who text him after every infusion – behind him.
And he has baseball. It’s something Clemen has always loved and taken seriously. But after what he went through two years ago, it’s something he loves more than ever before.
“It could be taken away like that,” Clemen said. “I don’t take nothing for granted now. I’m happy to be out here now, every day.”