I'm so sorry tonight to share the terrible news that Jason Rollison, our colleague and friend, passed away this afternoon in State College after a brief but bullish battle with cancer.
Jason was 38.
His wife Jessica reached out to ask that I help inform his readers, friends and acquaintances, including here at our site. When she has word on services, donations and other details, she's promised to pass them along to all of us.
Born in Uniontown, Jason started his journalism career in the early 2000s, stringing high school sports coverage for local newspapers close to his hometown. He took a 12-year break to pursue a career in information technology, but in late 2013, he got the bug again and began contributing to the venerable Pirates blog, Rumbunter. He eventually rose to the role of editor-in-chief, which he held until the end of the 2015 season. It was then that he decided to start a new venture -- Pirates Breakdown -- which he sold to USA Today in 2018. He also served as editor at SB Nation's Bucs Dugout and, later, was the voice of the 'Buccocast' podcast. (He really enjoyed the latter.)
His day job throughout was IT director for a major cabinet supplier in the center of the state. When he wasn't at work, with one job or the others, he also enjoyed exploring with Jessica and their pup Tippy.
Early this year, Jason approached me about a position at the site. In all candor, we didn't have one, but when I saw the scope of his work, how deeply immersed he was with the Pirates specifically, I created one out of thin air. He was as excited as anyone we've ever had come aboard. He would email me long lists of concepts he had for his feature. He even came up with the name -- Mound Visit -- hoping to make it a baseball companion to Chris Carter's Classroom that he respected so much.
Sure enough, his first piece for us was ... wow, not a home run but a Game 7 grand slam. He broke down, way back in March before a single pitch had been thrown, precisely what Chris Archer needed to do to regain All-Star form. And it ran two full months before Archer and the Pirates themselves figured that same thing out for themselves, thus turning around Archer's summer.
Maybe they all should've been reading Jason's work.
A handful of weeks ago, Jason began describing for me some back pain he'd been having. We communicated more than ever, as I'd had my own about a decade ago. But then, on Aug. 16, when he went for a checkup, the doctors found cancer in the kidney -- renal carcinoma -- and everything changed. A week later, the news worsened, as he'd learned the cancer had spread through his back.
He was told this condition would be the one that would claim his life.
And he shared that publicly. Shared all of it publicly because, as he worded it, he hoped all of his readers would go get checked.
Even then, he connected baseball and humor, saying, "I look forward to put this behind me and getting back to trying to help make sense of the Pirates!"
He kept writing for us, as our readers saw. He tried to stick with every weekday at the outset, but he also insisted on multiple operations to attack this thing. And as his output slowed, he'd text me in the middle of the night -- if you can believe this -- apologizing that he didn't feel well enough to do a new installment. His last Mound Visit ran Sept. 6, and we've left it on our home page ever since.
Also from that bed, he strongly recommended Alex Stumpf to be our new baseball beat writer when that position opened. That's why Alex was brought aboard, virtually sight unseen, because of my trust in Jason.
We communicated over the weekend while I was in San Francisco. I was just checking on how he was doing. And he was doing, within context, great. He was home, having been discharged from the hospital in Hershey.
Here he was celebrating that discharge in style:
He was where he wanted to be, and he was happy. His last message to me, Saturday morning, verbatim: "Have had some good days and bad. Getting through!"
Imagine that we could all be so strong.
An obituary of Jason has been posted at Koch Funeral Home with memorial service details as well as a recommendation to make donations to the American Cancer Society in Jason's name in lieu of sending flowers.
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