Bell coach’s fight an inspiration to players, colleagues

Posted Monday, May. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Just watching Paul Gibson stand in the third base coaching box last weekend probably was the best moment of the Colleyville Heritage-Hurst L.D. Bell playoff series.

On Friday, Gibson vehemently argued a call at third when both runners were called out at the bag on a bizarre busted play. Given Gibson’s year-long personal ordeal of dealing with a life-changing illness, it’s better than what could have been.

“If this was 10 years ago, I probably would have been given six to nine months to live,” the 49-year-old said. “I know I just have to live with it.”

Last summer, doctors diagnosed Gibson, the Bell head coach, with amyloidosis, in which organs produce an abnormal amount of proteins. While it’s not cancer and can be controlled, it can be life threatening in other organs. It’s mostly confined to his kidneys. Gibson is on pill chemo and other medications.

His fatigue is noticeable. During games, he can’t stand constantly. When the Blue Raiders are in the field, he sits on a bucket. While standing in the coaches box, he wears athletic support socks to absorb the pressure.

Gibson has been a fixture at Bell for 20 years and been very successful with this program. While they finished fourth in the district, they upset top-rated Flower Mound in the bi-district round. Few saw that coming. Even better, Gibson gets to coach his son Blake, who plays third base for him. He also coached his son Bryce.

“It just shows you how much you embrace all of life,” Gibson said. “Coaching Blake and Bryce is something I’ll always remember.”

Gibson’s Blue Raiders knocked out their fellow District 6-5A rival Panthers in the Region I quarterfinals. They won the deciding game, 5-2, Saturday at QuikTrip Ballpark in Grand Prairie. The Blue Raiders (20-21) used two Colleyville Heritage errors to build a 5-run fifth inning. Bell advanced to the Region I semifinals where it will meet Arlington Martin this week.

Our time here is so tenuous. We are never promised tomorrow. Trips to the world famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., filled up Gibson’s 2012 summer. The support of his wife Cherie has been unmatched.

Ultimately, the hope is that as his kidneys stabilize, he will be in a far better position to be nearly as active as he once was.

Yet it’s a daily grind. Colleyville Heritage coach Alan McDougal and Grapevine’s Tim McCune have known Gibson for as long as they have competed against each other in district play or in non-district games.

“I have so much respect for Paul as a baseball coach and a man,” McCune said. “To see him handle it with grace and courage has been uplifting. To see what the team is doing is one of the greater stories I can ever remember. They’re playing hard for him.”

We don’t cover L.D. Bell, but I crossed paths with Gibson when he broke into coaching. Once I finished my Colleyville Heritage interviews Saturday, the opportunity visit with Gibson became available.

A big smile greeted me, and the conversation just was about him and how he was doing and our families. Gibson is one of those people that you make the effort to get to know and to let him know another prayer can be added to his long list.

Only God knows why these things happen. But as Gibson has taught his players, it’s not what happens when adversity strikes. It’s how you respond to it.

From this vantage point, he’s a living example of what it means to have strength and faith in our darkest hours.

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