Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Yankees HOPE Week Day 2: Jon Becker & Mike Sole, Honoring Donate A Life


Jon Becker and Mike Sole throwing out the ceremonial first pitches on Tuesday night. Provided by New York Yankees.

On the second day of the Yankees annual HOPE Week, the team honored Jon Becker and Mike Sole, two former Yankees minor league athletic trainers who formed a strong bond while both served as intake testers for the team at Yankee Stadium during the pandemic.

Last year, the pair underwent a living liver transplant procedure that saved Mike's life. Jon started a GoFundMe page when he learned Mike needed a liver transplant. The page, titled " Mike Sole Needs A New Liver," raised over $25,000 to cover Mike's medical expenses. 

The GoFundMe not only spurred friends and loved ones to reach out with encouragement, but also got the word out that they needed to find a living donor. With the site up, Jon realized that he should find out if he was a candidate, and months later, after many doctor visits and arduous preparation, Jon and Mike underwent the life-saving joint procedure on October 31, 2023.

Since their year in New York City was spent in lockdown, the Yankees sought to make up for it by taking them to Arthur Avenue in The Bronx for a true taste of the city.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, players Austin Wells and Michael Tonkin, Frist Base Coach Travis Chapman, and members of the Yankees Athletic Training Staff joined Becker and Sole in making mozzarella at Mike's Deli in Arthur Avenue's famous market, stuffing cannoli at Gino's Pastry Shop, and then they had an Italian meal and learned about organ donation from the organization Donate Life.

Later in the day, Becker and Sole were guests of the Yankees for batting practice and the game against Baltimore.

The group crowds around a classic Italian sandwich at Mike's Deli. Provided by New York Yankees.

Stuffing cannoli at Gino's Pastry Shop. Provided by New York Yankees.

HOPE WEEK HONOREES: JON BECKER & MIKE SOLE (provided by New York Yankees

Jon Becker and Mike Sole (pronounced “soul”) are former minor league athletic trainers in the Yankees organization. Extremely well-regarded internally, they both performed their roles to the letter, devoting long hours, virtually every day over a nine-month stretch, to the health and well-being of the organization’s players.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, their roles changed drastically. Jon and Mike became intake testers, checking temperatures and symptoms of Yankees players, coaches and staff as they arrived to work every day, whether at Yankee Stadium or ballparks on the road. In short order, they became known in the clubhouse as the “intake task force,” and the pair started to be inseparable, even becoming roommates in 2020 and 2021.

As daily life began to normalize following the pandemic, both decided to move on from baseball for a better work-life balance. Jon returned home to his native Illinois, where he became an assistant golf pro at the Effingham Country Club, just minutes from where he grew up in the town of Strasburg. Mike moved to Charleston, joining the Health and Wellness Institute Team at the Medical University of South Carolina. Little did Jon and Mike know at the time, but the bond they forged would bring them back together in the most profound of ways — under life and death circumstances.

As their lives diverged, the pair remained in touch, and in May 2022, Mike shared that he was suffering from constant fatigue and abdominal pain. By the spring of 2023, Mike developed jaundice, swollen legs and mental fogginess.

After many tests, doctors found that Mike, just 30 years old at the time, had developed blood clots in his liver. He underwent multiple procedures to remove the clots and had stints inserted — but neither procedure provided a long-term solution. After receiving a second opinion at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, doctors recommended that Mike undergo a living liver donor transplant, which requires a living individual to donate part of their liver.

Jon leapt into action and immediately started a GoFundMe page called “Mike Sole Needs A New Liver,” with the goal of raising $25,000 to cover Mike’s medical expenses and temporary housing in New York. Not only did the GoFundMe spur Mike’s long-lost friends to reach out with encouragement, but it also spread word that they needed to find a living liver donor.

Shortly after getting the site up and running, Jon had a realization: Could he be a candidate for Mike? Jon called his friend and found out that their blood types matched. Months later — after many doctor visits for both of them and lots of preparation — Jon and Mike successfully underwent the procedure on October 31, 2023.

The effect on Mike was immediate. Just days later, his jaundice abated, and he had much more energy. However, full recovery was not quite that instantaneous. Following the surgery, Jon spent eight weeks in the New York Tri-State area and Mike remained for three months as they attended follow-up visits with the doctors who performed their operations. Eventually though, they were sent home, with positive outlooks in tow.

Mike was incredibly fortunate to have someone in his life willing to perform such a selfless act, but others aren’t so lucky. In fact, there are more than 100,000 people on the transplant waiting list and 17 people a day die waiting for an organ to become available.

Both have recovered according to plan since the procedure, but Jon and Mike know their story isn’t over just yet. They want to continue spreading the word about living donor transplants.

As part of HOPE Week 2024, the Yankees would like to honor Jon and Mike for their contributions to our organization and celebrate the life-saving miracle that came from their incredible bond of friendship. We also want to further share with the world what living donation is and how it’s within everyone’s grasp to potentially save a life. 

During Jon and Mike’s HOPE Week celebration, the Yankees will harness the power of social media by using their platforms to raise awareness for organ donation. Throughout the day, Yankees social posts will detail information about organ donation and promote their own campaign page with the nonprofit Donate Life (https://registerme.org/hopeweek). The Yankees hope to leverage their 17.7 million combined followers on their social media platforms to help save lives and encourage fans to sign up to become a potential organ donor.


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