READING, Pa. -- John Kruk has used many a person as a straight man. Teammates. Managers. Coaches. Reporters. David Letterman.
Seldom, though, has Kruk's act been a solo, with a serious side to the Philadelphia Phillies' first baseman on display. But, as Kruk says, cancer can sober a person real fast.
Thus it has with Kruk, who discovered last month that he has testicular cancer, a disease that caused the removal of his right testicle and radiation treatments that won't end until this week.
"In years past, I probably would have played and played and played until I died," Kruk said Friday after playing in the first of three games with the Double-A Reading Phillies. "But this thing threw a scare in me. Now, I have to listen to my body, I think -- which is a scary thought."
So even if one part of Kruk wants to resume playing tomorrow for the big-league Phillies, which he may well do, it won't be with the same blinders as before.
"If I'm tired, I won't play," he said. "Last year, it would have killed me not to be able to be out there. But what I had puts things into perspective."
It is a perspective that was once formed by a game that was all important. Kruk lived for baseball.
The camaraderie, and the talent found on that team, led to a National League pennant last season. And a feeling of invincibility. Until March, when he admitted to a discomfort that had plagued him since last season, when he was hit in the groin by an errant throw from Mitch Williams.
"To be honest with you, I really don't know why I got checked," said Kruk, 33. "I really didn't want to. I knew there was something wrong, but I didn't want to know. I hoped it would go away."