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Monday, August 7, 2023

Lem Pilkinton survived cancer, became coach, instructor; Played five seasons, made high-A

Lem Pilkinton 1990 Peninsula Pilots card

Two months after completing a round of chemotherapy, Mariners minor leaguer Lem Pilkinton had his sights set on getting back to the field, on spring training 1992, The Newport News Daily Press wrote.

He'd discovered a lump on one of his testicles that turned out to be cancerous, but the chemotherapy appeared to have him cancer-free, The Daily Press wrote.

"I asked my doctors what they would tell a patient normally, not an athlete but a normal patient," Pilkinton told The Daily Press. "They said it would be June before you'd feel pretty good. Then I asked them what they'd tell a young person. They said June. I said, 'Well, it's going to be March for me."

Pilkinton did make it back for spring, but he didn't make it back to a pro game. He saw five seasons and made high-A. But he has stayed in the game, as a coach and as a youth instructor.

Pilkinton's career began in 1986, taken by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the draft out of Columbia State Community College in Tennessee. He was also credited as Lem Pilkington.

Pilkinton started with the Red Sox at short-season Elmira. He hit .191 over 26 games. He then moved to single-A Greensboro for 1987. He hit .241 over 84 games.

Pilkinton moved to the Blue Jays system and single-A Myrtle Beach for 1988. He saw 26 games and hit .270. For 1989, he arrived at single-A co-op Peninsula and hit .270 in 109 games.

In June 1989, Pilkinton hit a curveball for a home run to break a tie, The Winston-Salem Journal wrote.

"I knew he threw a lot of curves, and I was looking for one," Pilkinton told The Journal. "He kinda hung it."

Pilkinton returned to Peninsula at high-A for 1990. He hit .239 in 114 games. Then came his cancer. While he didn't return to the field, he returned for 1991 as a player-coach at AA Jacksonville.

"I'm really having a good time," Pilkinton told The Daily Press that April in 1991. "I've always wanted to get into coaching. It's fun going to the park every day."

He then served as hitting coach at short-season Bellingham for 1992. He then opened his own baseball academy in 1993, Hit After Hit. He continues with the academy in 2023.

Lem Pilkinton 1990 Peninsula Pilots card

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:4,200
Made the Majors:1,379-32.8%
Never Made Majors:2,821-67.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:560
10+ Seasons in the Minors:344

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