All heart, one beat: Dunkirk baseball team stands with fan battling cancer

Susie Lis, a longtime supporter of the Dunkirk Marauders baseball team.
Submitted Photo Susie Lis, a longtime supporter of the Dunkirk Marauders baseball team, was celebrated by members of the team at her home last Sunday.

The Dunkirk Marauders baseball team adopted the phrase “All heart, one beat” to define its program all throughout last season.

Last weekend, the Marauders showed just how much heart they have.

Susie Lis, a longtime fan of the Marauders baseball program, was recently diagnosed with cancer. In an effort to raise her spirits, the Marauders visited Lis at her home this past Sunday after a fall workout.

“She’s gotten into some health concerns and we thought, as a group, we’d let the boys know,” Dunkirk baseball coach Frank Jagoda said. “It was suggested, ‘What could we do to help? What could we do to pick her spirits up?’ Hopefully, Sunday was that.”

All throughout last season and for decades before it, Lis has been cheering on the Marauders. She does not have relative on the team, but the Marauders have become like family to her.

Sue Lis at a baseball game.
Sue Lis is shown at a Dunkirk boys baseball game.

“Susie has always been a big supporter of Dunkirk baseball. More recently, she’s been really taking it to heart, supporting the boys in every way she possibly can,” Jagoda said.

Lis grew up with Jagoda, who was teammates with her brother through a Little League All-Stars run to the State Final Four.

“She was always a part of it. She’s followed through now and she’s really supporting us in every way,” Jagoda said.

Lis, a former nurse, even jumped into action last year to tend to a player on the Marauders, Anthony Piede, who was injured in a game at Gowanda. Lis traveled with other Dunkirk supporters to the division championship game, which was won by Gowanda.

“She’s just such a sweet lady, she’s always cheering on the boys. When we would have a team picnic, she would always bring something for the kids,” said Denise Zentz, President of the Dunkirk Marauders Sports Boosters.

Dunkirk senior Zachary Zentz, pitching.
OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Dunkirk senior Zachary Zentz, who is expected to be the team’s top returning pitcher in 2024, was among the players to visit Susie Lis at her home last Sunday.

Denise Zentz joined the team in the visit, alongside her son, Dunkirk senior Zachary Zentz, who is expected to be the team’s top returning pitcher in 2024. Zachary Zentz is a team captain, serves as a student board member for the Dunkirk Board of Education, and participated in the American Legion Boys’ State of New York 2023 Program this past summer.

The team surprised Lis with their visit, as Denise Zentz coordinated with Lis’ husband to have the team visit their Dunkirk home. The Marauders brought gifts with them on Sunday, including treats, inspirational cards, a baseball signed by members of the team, and a Dunkirk baseball cap.

“She was just in shock,” Denise Zentz said. “We said ‘You’re part of our baseball family and nobody fights alone.’ … It was amazing.”

The team huddled around Lis on Sunday in her living room as she called out, “All heart,” while the team responded, “one beat!”

“I think it’s a good lesson for the boys to support people that support us. The boys were very happy to go and give back, to support her with the challenges she has now,” Jagoda said. “We’ve had some people around us that really support us. … This was just another way of showing our appreciation for people that support us.”

Last weekend’s kind gesture is not the first time the Marauders have showed their support for a member of the Dunkirk community battling health concerns. The Marauders welcomed Mia Curtin to throw the ceremonial first pitch of the team’s home playoff game last season. Curtin battled a rare brain condition that required surgery last spring. Catcher Donny Jackson, who received the ceremonial pitch, called the event “probably one of the best things I’ve done.”

“I’m very proud of the fact that the boys have always helped people,” Jagoda said. “There are more important things sometimes than just playing baseball.”

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