Who was Coach Jeff?
There are so many ways to describe the ideal coach, but to find a coach with an ideal combination of these qualities can be next to impossible. Hard working, knowledgeable, dedicated, committed, selfless, humble, motivating, a role model, patient, kind yet tough, and most definitely a fighter - both on and oﬀ the field. That was Coach Jeﬀ Bucholz.
A cancer diagnosis came in October of 2016 and was the last thing 42-year-old Coach Jeﬀ Bucholz was expecting. He was healthy, strong and had had barely a sick day in his life. But by mid-October Jeﬀ was undergoing weekly chemotherapy. While his life quickly changed, his love of baseball and his Tigers team did not.
Jeﬀ’s love for God, his family, baseball and “his boys” kept him going through his journey with cancer. Coach Jeﬀ would go for 10 hours of chemotherapy every Monday. Chemo had to be scheduled early so he could make it to the Tiger’s practice at 5pm Monday night. While Jeﬀ would spend most of Tuesday thru Thursday recovering from the side eﬀects of chemotherapy, he would never miss a Thursday night practice. Baseball was like a drug for Jeﬀ and he returned from practice every Thursday looking like a new man. Weekends were reserved for AZ Play Ball games and club tournaments. Cancer took the back seat until Monday rolled around again.
In February 2017 Jeﬀ under went an extensive 10 hour surgery to remove the cancerous portion of his liver followed by a 10 day hospitalization. His recovery was expected to take nearly 12 weeks. Apparently that didn’t include time oﬀ from baseball. Jeﬀ was back in the dugout only 4 days later. Despite using a wheelchair to get to the field, he insisted on walking out to his players and coaching their tournament that weekend. He couldn’t let them, or himself, down.
When Jeﬀ first found out about his diagnosis, one of his goals became to make it to Cooperstown with his 12U Majors Tigers team the summer of 2017. The weeks prior to Cooperstown were filled with chemotherapy, radiation and the slew of side eﬀects that came along with them. But the Tigers Team was a family and our family had so much to be thankful for during that wet, cold and rainy week of baseball. We had made it!
Jeﬀ continued to coach his team through the end of the fall 2018 season. Most of the boys would be heading to high school the following year hoping to make it on to their high school teams. Jeﬀ’s cancer and never ending chemotherapy were continuing to take their toll. While his physical body was failing, cancer could not take away his love for these boys and coaching. Ask any player, opposing coach or umpire, Jeﬀ never faltered. His team came first, and cancer could not change who he was or what he loved. He never gave up on coaching or fighting - both on and oﬀ the field. Throughout his battle, Jeﬀ’s motto was Phillipians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
In the fall of 2018 Jeﬀ was presented with the Teeter Coach’s award. On June 7, 2019 Jeﬀ received the greatest award ever when he went to be with his Father in Heaven. If there is baseball in heaven (and I believe there is), you can bet Jeﬀ is still coaching.
We are honored that Keith and Amy Colson have remembered Jeﬀ by creating the Coach Jeﬀ Bucholz Memorial Award. Struggles can come in many forms not limited to physical diﬃculties, family, social, emotional and other hardships. The player who receives this award is commended for showing strength, perseverance, dedication, selflessness, and kindness while working hard to overcome adversity.