RANTOUL — Andrew Cotner said having cancer “can actually be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

That’s an upbeat view of an eternal optimist.

But cancer can be quite energy-sapping, debilitating and make a person feel pretty awful. It’s primarily because of the return of his throat cancer that Cotner has decided to close the Diamond Sports Training facility in Rantoul Plaza

Cotner, who operated the facility with Allen Jones Sr. of Rantoul, said the local facility also “didn’t get enough buy-in locally” for it to remain open.

The Rantoul center is still open but will close “in the next few weeks,” Cotner said.

While Jones has been heavily involved in the Rantoul baseball site, he said Cotner “is the nuts and bolts and the guru of hitting instruction.”

But Jones knows his fair share about baseball, too, and Cotner credits Jones for his work, which he said he will continue to do at the new Champaign facility Cotner has opened called East-Central Baseball, which is located at 2702 N. Market St. near Market Street Mall.

Cotner, who was a star baseball player for Champaign Centennial (class of ‘87), was drafted by the New York Mets. He said his health problems put a lot on the shoulders of Jones to help at the Rantoul facility.

“There is no one I would rather partner with than Allen Jones. It left an awful lot on Allen’s plate,” Cotner said of his illness.

He hates to see Diamond Sports Training close, saying he loved the place and saw a number of youngsters develop their games there.

“People came from all over. I had people who drove from Perryville, Mo., and Effingham, Bloomington, Mahomet, Champaign and Charleston-Mattoon,” Cotner said.

Don’t feel sorry for Cotner. He said he is blessed to have a strong support system of family and friends.

And he said he doesn’t want people to pray for his cure.

“I don’t believe that’s the way God works,” he said. “What I understand is if He could just make my cancer go away, He would. I believe in free will, and I don’t believe He is going to intervene  in this.”

But Cotner said he is not “going down without a fight.”

He underwent surgery in November and lost 52 pounds simply because he didn’t eat for three months.

Cotner said while most people assume that his throat cancer was caused by chewing tobacco — a common vice for baseball players — that isn’t the case. He has never chewed tobacco in his life, he said.

To top it off, Cotner also has kidney failure and has been told by doctors he is likely about six months away from having to undergo dialysis. He said the kidney failure “is a bigger thing” than the cancer actually.

The 10,000-square-foot facility that Diamond Sports Training inhabits will soon be available. Anyone interested in leasing the building should contact Ron Minch at 892-5959.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com