Siena Forward Plays in Coaches vs Cancer Game After Losing His Father to Cancer

The Siena basketball team with Baer and a few members of his family, including his father, who moved to Saratoga Springs to be closer to his son while he pursued his graduate degree. EDDIEQUINN/SIENACOLLEGEATHLETICS/COURTESY

By: Jilleen Barrett, Senior writer

Michael Baer, a graduate student at Siena College and a forward on the basketball team, had one of the best matches of his career in a Coaches vs. Cancer game against Iona University. Baer scored 18 points for the Saints, who ultimately won 70-53 and are the top ranked MAAC team this season. This win came just a few days after Baer lost his own father to cancer.

Baer did not doubt he would play in this game despite going through such a difficult time.

“My siblings and I were joking my dad would probably roll over in his grave if I didn’t play tonight,” Baer told The Times Union after the game on Jan. 27. “It was never a question with that.”

Carmen Maciariello, the head coach of the team, explained why he felt Baer played so well that night.

“I think it was probably just a relief of pressure,” Maciariello said. “I think, you know, it kind of is surreal, but I think there was some closure … I think the timing was pretty impeccable, and sometimes things in life work out that way.”

Baer’s dad had watched many of his games and even relocated to Saratoga Springs for a period of time to be closer to his son. For the Coaches vs. Cancer game, many of Baer’s family members were able to support him by watching the broadcast.

  “We had an amazing crowd of almost eight thousand, [and] obviously it was on national television so everyone back home in Iowa could watch it too,” Maciariello said. “So I just think all those things going into what really, I think helped just bring it all out of it. And you know, Mike’s been playing great all year. He’s really done a great job.”

Baer’s success throughout his second year with the Saints is in part due to his sportsmanship, his coach said. According to Maciariello, Baer is a leader, puts the team before himself and takes freshmen under his wing.

Many of these characteristics come from his dad, the coach added. In a Feb. 1 post written as a tribute to his father on his personal Instagram account, Baer wrote about the mixed feelings he is experiencing in the wake of his father’s passing. 

“It hurts to lose someone who I get so many of my best qualities from, but I feel blessed to have received those qualities in the first place,” Baer wrote.

In addition to Baer’s dad, the team also lost their honorary teammate, Evan Franz. Franz was 18 years old when he passed on Jan. 23 — just one day after Baer’s father — after battling brain cancer for three years. An empty seat was left for him on the bench during the Coaches vs. Cancer game.

After the game, Baer tweeted, “Special moment. Special game. Special team. The support from the Saints fans last night and through this entire week has been outstanding. That arena was rocking!!”

Baer was a starter in the Feb. 3 match between Manhattan and Siena, which was in Draddy Gymnasium, and played for the majority of the game. He scored five points for the Saints, who ultimately lost 71-66.