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65-year old baseball pitcher conquers health scares and is now ready for extra innings

Rob MacKnight is still taking the mound after skin cancer, heart surgery and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — Baseball has been very, very good for an Imperial Beach man, even when his health wasn't. In this Zevely Zone, I met a 65-year-old pitcher who his teammates call the Deer Hunter.  If you have ever played baseball, when there is a sneaky pitcher on the mound, you never know what pitch is coming your way which is a lot like life. 

After running and stretching himself into a lather of sweat at a baseball field, Rob MacKnight asked me to catch balls for him behind home plate.

"This is a warmup," said Rob followed quickly by these words, "Let's try a slider. How about a change up? We could try a knuckle curve if you want?"  

Credit: CBS 8

Finally, the man on the mound was ready to let the fastball fly. Out of desperation, fear, and simple survival I put the glove in front of my head to protect my face. Pow, went the glove with every pitch. 

Three months ago, the pitches couldn't have come any faster for Rob who is a father with four children and grandpa.

Credit: CBS 8

"Less than ideal," said Rob showing me pictures of his recent hospital visits. A different kind of mound made itself at home on the pitcher's ear and arm. "It turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma," said Rob. 

What was supposed to be an easy out, turned into a double header of heart surgery. "Yeah, you know one of my several hospital stays," said Rob. "Just excited to be there."

Credit: Rob MacKnight

Let's not forget the wild pitch that came one year before. "Well, this little thing called chronic lymphocytic leukemia," said Rob. When blood transfusions were needed to save his life, Rob was more worried about saving his pitching arm. "Ha, ha, ha, we always go lefty," said Rob who asked the nurses to stick the needles in his non-throwing arm.  

Credit: Rob MacKnight

Nicknamed the Deer Hunter, one game when Rob wasn't feeling well, he accidentally beaned four batters. I asked Rob if he felt bad about it. "Oh yeah, a little bit, ha, ha," laughed Rob with a mischievous wink of the eye.  

Back when Rob played baseball at San Diego City College, he threw in the low 90's. Four decades later he's still bringing the heat and piling up more hardware than his house can hold. "Some of the bling, bling," said Rob while showing me some of his many rings and MVP awards. When I tell you his house can't hold them all, it's not an exaggeration. "I donate them so they can be recycled," said Rob who gives his trophies away to Little League teams to be used again.  

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I asked Rob how fast he can throw a baseball at 65-years old? "The scouts stopped coming I don't know," said Rob. For any 18-year-olds reading this, let's just say fast enough for extra innings and the next better up. "Crying? There is no crying in baseball," said Rob. "Find what you love to do and do it."

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Rob MacKnight started playing baseball at 10-years old. When he was a 13-year-old, he started the season 0-16 at the plate.  One year later, Rob became an All-Star pitcher and never looked back.   

Last weekend, just 37 days after heart surgery, Rob pitched a complete game. His team beat the Colorado Thunder 10-3. 

Watch another Zevely Zone below:

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