Making A Comeback

After so many chances to give up, Gabe Scalise finally made it back on the field


Haleigh McCune

After recovering from a tumor his freshman year, senior Gabe Scalise made it back on the field for his senior year.

By Haleigh McCune, Liberty High School

There’s this kind of awkward time in between middle and high school. At the end of your eighth grade year of course you know that you’re moving schools, but sometimes you don’t really feel like a high schooler until you’re actually there for awhile. Until that moment, it can be scary. Trying to figure out your niche, what people you’re going to talk to in class, and of course what classes you are and definitely are not going to take.

But not once while preparing for this change you thought of the possibility that another (much more important, and urgent) worry you might have is finding out that you have a tumor. Unfortunately for one freshman it was.

But don’t worry, this is a good story. Four years later, Gabe Scalise is thriving for his senior year. Able to do what he loves, with the people he loves being around. Baseball.

After managing last year, Gabe wanted to play the sport he loves again. He believes that it is “more fun being a part of the team and having a jersey” and knowing that he “may have a chance to go in to help.”

Gabe is a pitcher for the varsity team, so “obviously [he] can’t pitch every game,” but knowing that he could is what motivated him to tryout this year.

And it’s a good thing he did. Being around all of the seniors on his team is causing him to have “more fun than ever in his baseball career.” And he deserves it, don’t you think? After working so hard to regain everything that he’s lost.

So let’s start from the beginning.

They found it by complete accident. Gabe had fractured his vertebrae (L5) earlier that summer before his freshman year and when he began to have balancing issues his family started to worry. They decided to take a trip to the hospital. It would be a complete surprise what they would leave knowing.

During the MRI a certain fluid put in the IV showed a mass in Gabe’s brain. It was a benign tumor.

From here the doctors presented three options. The family chose surgery.

But the tumor kept growing. So the doctors went to plan B which was chemo radiation and this worked for awhile.

It worked until he tried to take the ACT in 2018. Numbness and “tingling sensations” sent the family back to the hospital where they learned that there were three cysts growing around the tumor.

With the adversity he (Gabe) has to fight and the attitude he has, it’s very inspiring.”

— Coach Wheeler

Another surgery was planned to get rid of the cysts. Leaving the tumor alone for now.

Two of the three were successfully stopped from healing. One of them came back. The tumor was fueling the cyst by being its source of energy.

Unfortunately, it was still there, and still causing problems. So to get rid of this mass (that was changing in size) and reduce the effects it was having on his brain, Gabe started taking chemo. This would directly target the tumor, trying to reduce its size and block whatever was feeding it.

But here is the good news you’ve probably been hoping you’d hear throughout this story. Not only is the tumor now benign, by taking this medicine everyday, it has shrunk 50%. And that is just from February to April (2018.)

Although this is definitely good news, it did not come easily.

Because of the constant growing and shrinking of the tumor and stress on his body, Gabe’s balance, vision, and athletic abilities have been tested.

It has been hard for him to retain and memorize information, and focus on specific things in the classroom. After his second surgery, Gabe got Nystagmus, which is when your eye moves involuntarily along with double vision which caused headaches.

Almost having the ability to be a doctor himself Gabe said that most of these side effects came from the equilibrium because of the fact that it “messed with the brain stem.”

Along with academic difficulties, these procedures also took a toll on his baseball career.

Balance became a big issue when running and trying to stop abruptly, and when trying to hit lack of complete vision became an issue. This meaning that when a pitch was coming in a certain way (certain directions, ie. a curveball,) he wouldn’t be able to see that, and hit.

In the years that Gabe couldn’t play and come to school, his friends were there to support him. People that have known him since middle school such as Evan Witte would hangout with him before practices when Gabe couldn’t come to school. Evan describes Gabe as a “hard worker” and someone who “never gives up on anything.” And that persistence has gotten Gabe far.

Gabe hopes that the tumor will be mostly gone by the start of college at Maryville University, and is excited to “restart everything, [and] begin a new chapter.” This new chapter involves new studies such as sports psychiatry.

Knowing that he himself has “always been a mental player,” Gabe wants to work with major sport athletes (particularly those in Major League Baseball) to “try to help them overcome whatever they’re thinking [about] in the box.” He wants to be able to help these players be successful and confident both in the box and on the field.

But it turns out that he has already started this change. One of his coaches (Mr. Wheeler) has known Gabe since his freshman year, and he says that “with the adversity he (Gabe) has to fight and the attitude he has, it’s’ very inspiring.” Wheeler was his coach freshman and senior year, so it’s cool that he gets to end with the people he started with. Wheeler also says that “not only [is Gabe a] nice kid, he’s encouraging for life.” He explains that by simply being around and talking to this player he’s gained a different outlook on life.

So this is a story of success. Of someone who has been through something that many people, let alone kids can say that they’ve faced. And look at him now.

This story was originally published on Liberty Ledger on April 23, 2019.