PECULIAR, Mo. — Good news travels fast, including word of Clayton Zupon’s community-minded life.
The Belton High School graduate was a strong-hitting catcher, and passed on chances to play college baseball. Instead, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he eventually made staff sergeant. He also served two tours of duty in the Middle East.
“I still wanted to play, but I wanted to do the military more,” said Zupon.
It was during Zupon’s second deployment that doctors discovered he was suffering from stage three cancer. It took radiation, chemotherapy and surgery to remote tumors from his brain and spine.
“Initially they gave me 12 to 18 months to live. I surpassed that. Once I realized I wasn’t gonna lay in bed and die, it was better to laugh about it and move on,” said Clayton
Nowadays, Clayton draws a disability, but he’s not just sitting around the house. He donates his time to the community — both in helping raise money for various charities and in coaching youth sports as a mentor for children.
He also spends time on his bike, helping raise money for the wounded warrior project which provides financial support for veterans in need.
“I like to give back, considering that’s what got me to where I am now,” said Zupon.
“The Royals and other athletes are recognized as heroes, but it’s the fans, and the community heroes we like to recognize. Clayton is one of those people, said Ben Aken, Senior Director of Community Relations.
“Maybe I’m just humble, but I believe there are probably more deserving people. That’s just how I look at it,” said Clayton.
News of humility travels fast too, adding to this hero’s appeal.
Zupon will join 29 other military members, one representing each major league team. They’ll be honored at next Tuesday’s All-star game at Citi Field in New York.