I have often loved reading those articles about the great sportsmanship and the amazing moments that happen when someone lifts someone else up in ways we never knew possible. When athletes triumph, and when those around them stand to the side to allow the moment to be everything it dictates…. When the other team carries someone around the bases to log her first career homerun… when a cancer warrior steps out onto a field of dreams and watches the magic unfold. I was a lucky witness to have lived one of those moments just a few weeks ago. Here is the story of one such warrior named Cole Fitzgerald.
Even before Cole was born, his challenges were plenty. He was born premature with a lot of physical issues including dislocated hips and lungs that were too small to function properly on their own. He was trached and on a ventilator for two years. As he was improving, he became sick again and found his way back into the hospital. Things took a turn for the worse. He was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma on January 29, 2007.
Cole’s cancer spread to his bone marrow from the adrenal gland. He received six chemo treatments, a whole list of surgeries, tumor removal, stem cell transplant, radiation, and a host of other treatments and therapies. The incredible amount of work by the team of doctors who stepped in to save his life is amazing. This boy has had the most incredible journey and challenge just to be alive today. I was honored to meet him at a charity softball tournament for Alex’s Lemonade stand to raise money for childhood cancer.
When I got there that day, I met our team: The Figthin’ Fitzgeralds. And now I understand why. The day was beautiful and sunny, if not a touch hot. We began in the morning and lost our first game. We didn’t score a run. And as we walked back to the tent we all decided the next game was ours. After a break, we played again. And again, lost. And again, we didn’t score a run.
The day was getting hotter and we were getting more anxious to put a run on the board. Now, it wasn’t the trophy we were after, it was just a run. Just one. We didn’t want to go through the day being shut out.
We made the trek across the way to the corner field for our last game of the day. The sun was beating. It was hot. We were tired. But we were there for a good cause and raised a whole lot of money, so it was ok if we lost every game we played. But just a run. It’s all we were after.
We made our way out to the field and began. A few innings went by and we still hadn’t found a way to get a run across the plate. It was mid-game when the bottom of our order was coming up. Some of the family jumped in to play with us as we had some injuries and people who needed to leave early. Cole kept asking for just one at bat. No one was quick to put him out there for fear of his getting hurt. So on we went. We had an out, now two. I looked up and there was Cole, picking up a bat and making his way to the plate. He scratched his name onto the lineup sheet that sat on the bleachers.
Cole swung at the first pitch and hit a solid shot to the left side. The third baseman and shortstop were not anticipating the hard hit and picked it up too late to get Cole at first. He was safe.
Next batter up was our leadoff. Base hit to the outfield. Cole stood at second as the next batter came up. Again, another base hit. We now had bases loaded. Cole standing at third base. The first time any of our players saw third base that day.
I watched all of this with a bat in my hand, on deck.
I walked to the plate with two outs and Cole waiting to score. I remember thinking to myself, if there was ever a time to get a hit… it wasn’t the championship game, it was today. I stepped into the batters box and smiled. I knew this was how the story was supposed to be written.
One pitch, I swung and willed the ball through the 5/6 hole. Cole crossed the plate as our first run that day.
I was so excited to reach first, you would have thought we just won the championship of the World Series. I jumped up and down hugging Cole’s dad who was coaching first. The tears wouldn’t stay in.
This was what the day was about.
We weren’t there that day to win a trophy.
We were there to witness the magic in the moment.
Look for them, they are all around us.