People.com Entertainment Sports Former Phillies Relief Pitcher and Olympian Rheal Cormier Dies at 53 from Cancer The athlete, nicknamed "Frenchy," died on Monday, the Philadelphia team announced By Cher Published on March 9, 2021 07:17 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Rheal Cormier. Photo: Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images Former baseball player Rheal Cormier has died. He was 53. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer died Monday following a "courageous battle with cancer," the Philadelphia Phillies announced. Cormier — nicknamed "Frenchy" — was a relief pitcher on the Phillies for most of his 16-year professional career. With 363 games played out of the bullpen, Cormier played in more games than any other left-handed reliever in the franchise's history, save Tug McGraw, the Phillies said. Jim Thome, one of Cormier's close friends and former teammate, called the athlete "one of the most vibrant people I've had the pleasure of knowing." Rheal Cormier. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Celebrities Who've Died in 2021 "He loved baseball, but he always put his family first," Thome said in a statement. "Frenchy was the kind of guy who would do anything for you and I'm lucky to have called him my friend for many years. Our time spent together in Philadelphia as teammates was unforgettable. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten." Another former teammate, Dan Plesac, shared a tribute to Cormier on Twitter Tuesday. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. "RIP 'Frenchy' ... Rheal Cormier lost his battle with cancer. One of my all time favorite teammates," Plesac wrote. "Big heart, spent 2yrs sitting next to him in the @Phillies bullpen (2002-2003)... he made everyone he played with better...keep throwing that 3-2 splitter in heaven. RIP my friend." Cormier played in the Olympics for his home country of Canada in 1988 and again in 2008, where he was the oldest player in the Beijing competition at age 41. He became a U.S. citizen in 2004 during a Phillies series against the Marlins in Miami. Mark Pavelich, Miracle on Ice 1980 Olympic Hockey Team Member, Found Dead at 63 "I'm living the American dream and feel like I can give back, help the community and be a part of this country," he said ahead of his naturalization ceremony, ESPN reported. Though he primarily played for the Phillies, he also spent time on the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos. Cormier is survived by his wife and two children.