UNK Today | August 2014 - page 23

loved the Rockies.
Some say he inspired the
Rockies to win 19 of 20 games
in a stretch run that carried
them to the World Series in
2007. It was an inspiration of
spirit because Blakeman died
late that August from renal
medullary carcinoma, a disease
so rare that only about 100
cases have been confirmed
worldwide.
Rockies manager Clint
Hurdle first met Blakeman two
years earlier when Blakeman
tackled cancer the first time.
The major league manager and
the ill child became friends. In
August 2007, Hurdle visited
Blakeman in the hospital after a
tough loss and asked Blakeman
if he had any luck. Blakeman
gave him a lucky number, the
one on his football jersey.
Hurdle wrote that number on
the lineup card the rest of the
season, including during the
Rockies’ miraculous run.
“It was one of the weirdest
things they had. I believe they
won 6-4 and the numbers six
and four kept coming up. The
other team had four errors. It
was really spectacular how
the numbers kept coming up,”
Manhart said. “He used it
through the final game of the
World Series where they lost
to the Red Sox, but it meant a
lot to Kyle that he could do that
for him.”
Blakeman’s death hit his cir-
cle of friends very hard. Many
of them had gone through his
first battle with cancer.
“That was the toughest thing
because everyone thought he
had beat it,” Manhart said.
Manhart found out his friend
had relapsed when he stopped
showing up for the homeroom
period they shared.
“Your heart just drops when
you hear something like that,
especially when it’s someone
you’re that close to and you
see him every day. It was
life-changing when I heard
that,” he said.
Thunder Ridge was pre-
paring for the football season
when Blakeman died. Although
it had been more than a year
since Blakeman had played, he
was still part of the team, hav-
ing attended practices wearing
his No. 64 jersey.
So, every game that season
when the captains went to
midfield for the coin toss, they
carried a framed 64 jersey with
them.
“A lot of those guys I was
captain with grew up with him
and played Little League with
him, so they knew him almost
better than I did. It meant a lot
to them that we could honor
him,” Manhart said.
The school and community
followed along.
“We had a giant banner that
we hung up behind our home
side and the community really
rallied behind Kyle and raised
a lot of money for several
cancer foundations after that,”
Manhart said.
Before the end of the year,
Manhart’s father died. The two
are deaths are linked.
“I think about Kyle and my
dad every time I put on my
jersey because … I’ve had a lot
of tough times at Kearney and I
think about them and it’s gotten
me through everything. It’s
made me the man I am today,”
Manhart said.
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AUTOMOTIVE
Guide
2014
CONTINUED FROM 1
MANHART:
His friend, Kyle Blakeman, inspired Colorado Rockies on stretch run that carried team to 2007 World Series
“I think
about Kyle and my dad every time I put on
my jersey because … I’ve had a lot of tough times
at Kearney and I think about them and it’s gotten me
through everything. It’s made me the man I am today.”
Cole Manhart
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