CINCINNATI — At 58, Ivan DeJesus looks as fit today as he was in 2004, when he was manager of the Lexington Legends.
Now, DeJesus is third-base coach for the Chicago Cubs.
And a cancer survivor.
Lately, there have been few runners for DeJesus to direct. The Cubs lost eight games in a row before Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Wednesday marked the second game in their last seven that the Cubs had scored more than two runs.
DeJesus, in his fifth season with the Cubs, has a quick smile and words of encouragement for all.
"When you're going through this losing streak, you've got to keep the same attitude," DeJesus said before Tuesday's 8-2 loss. "You've got to keep working hard. You've got to keep believing in yourself. And soon everything's going to come out (OK). Don't try to do too much. Just do the little things, and I think you win more games doing the little things and (you have) everybody play the right way."
DeJesus, a shortstop who played 15 seasons in the majors (mostly for the Dodgers, Cubs and Phillies), led the Legends to a 67-72 record in 2004.
After two more seasons in the Houston Astros organization, as manager at Salem (High-A) and Greeneville (Rookie), DeJesus rejoined the Cubs in 2007.
Before that season started, though, he learned that he had prostate cancer. DeJesus was found during an off-season checkup to have a high PSA (prostate-specific antigen). When he reported to the Cubs for spring training, the numbers still were high.
After a biopsy at Northwestern Hospitals in Chicago and consultations, DeJesus had surgery late in the season (Aug. 28). Fortunately, the cancer was found early.
"They took care of it. I got the surgery and everything is real well right now," DeJesus said. "No problems, thank God."
The outlook that carried him through his bout with cancer isn't much different than what he talks about on the ball field.
"Coming from a Christian family, when you are secure about what's going on in your natural life, you just have to have faith," DeJesus said of how he viewed his cancer episode. "I think that's the main thing about everything in life, that you have the faith, you have the confidence in yourself."
DeJesus tries to convey the need for faith and self-confidence to players.
Including his son, Ivan Jr.
"Junior" was playing American Legion ball when he visited Lexington to spend time with his dad in 2004.
The next year, Ivan Jr. was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Dodgers — his dad's first big-league team.
Ivan Jr., a second baseman, made it to the big leagues at the start of this season. He has since moved back and forth from the Dodgers and the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.
"I'm real proud of him because I know he's got a long career," the elder DeJesus said. "He's got a long way to go still, and I think it's the desire that he wants (to excel). ... It's something you can't teach. I don't care how old you are or how young you are, you've got to have that in your heart to make it happen."
That's pretty much the same message Ivan Sr. directs towards all his players. His 2004 club produced several major-leaguers, including Josh Anderson, Edwin Maysonet, Matt Albers and Mitch Talbot. "That's a good feeling when you see those guys make it all the way," DeJesus said.