There are a few reasons I got involved with Kyle's Kamp. My husband went to high school with Rob Hahne and played ball with him. My oldest boys took hitting lessons from Rob. My littlest took his very first baseball clinic, "The Bambinos", with Kyle Hahne when he was four years old. We followed Kyle's journey after he was diagnosed with Leukemia. We prayed for the Hahnes and my boys' teams played in the last two Memorial Day tournaments.
Then there was Gavin. I've written about Gavin. Countless times. I wrote about lots of things before Gavin and I've written about many things since. I will continue to write about things that move me whether it's a quote from my pastor or the new JCrew catalog or any other manner of things. But I cannot deny the effect on my life and my writing of the story of Gavin Rupp, the boy who was so much like my own. And the story of his family, so much like my own. And the story of the buddies with whom he played, so much like the boys who pile into my car when it's my turn to drive to practice and who have sleepovers in my basement and eat all the pancakes before I can blink.
Gavin and the loss of him. That's what made me email Rob and say, "I'm in. What do I do next?"
One thing Rob asked me to do was write for the Kyle's Kamp website. And when I write, Gavin always comes to mind. But, Gavin is not a myth. He is not a Lifetime Movie script. He was not just a boy with cancer. Gavin was a boy. He was a boy in a family with a mom and a dad and three kids. The boy had a group of friends who loved baseball. His dad coached his baseball team. His mom ran kids all over town here and there. He was smart and funny and my guess is that sometimes he could drive his mama nuts and bug his brother and sister. Sound familiar? Gavin was everyone's kid.
I wish I could just tell the story of a boy who loved baseball. I wish I could just tell the story of how he and his team were one of the top fundraising teams in the Kyle's Kamp tournament last year and how they won the chance to play at Nats Park because how cool is that? If your son is on a 13u-16u team playing in the tournament this year, the chance at that field of dreams is wide open. I wish that the story of a once in a lifetime chance to play on a major league field and sit in a major league dugout and see your 13 year old face up on the major league jumbotron was all there was to this story. Because that? That's a darn good story.
I wish this was just simply about a boy, #15, who got that chance one year ago in the 2013 Kyle's Kamp Memorial Day Wood Bat Tournament.
Gavin stole some bases.
Gavin pitched a scoreless inning
Gavin fielded balls on the same field that Ian Desmond does..
Gavin had a hit to the outfield and then trotted out there to walk on the grass where Bryce Harper walks.
Gavin got an approving nod from his longtime coach, Coach Rupp.
Gavin and his best friend shared a "Can you even believe this, dude?!" moment.
It was a beautiful sunny day that had started out rainy and dreary. Rob wasn't sure if he might have to cancel the whole thing. He labored over the decision and finally decided to pray for sunshine and go ahead as planned. The sun broke through the clouds that Sunday and Gavin Rupp - a boy like mine, a boy like yours? Well, he had himself a day. Stolen bases, two hits, pitching lights out and crossing the plate for the first run for his team. A perfect day for a boy - any boy.
Gavin Rupp did not ever play another baseball game after that day at Washington Nationals Park. Gavin passed away two short months later from brain cancer.
I'm not trying to be melodramatic. I'm not trying to pull at heartstrings. I'm not good at fiction. Honestly, I don't have to consult my thesaurus to come up with something to make this story important.
This Kyle's Kamp Memorial Day Tournament, especially this year, is not just any baseball tournament. That day last year was not just a baseball game. It was about so much more. It was about a boy. It was about the blessing of being talented enough to steal bases and watch the ball sail into centerfield for a single. It was about the gift of a day at the ballpark that wasn't just like any other day. For Gavin and his teammates and his family, it was the beauty of the last game that God gave a ball player and his dad on the field together as his mom ignored the security guard to get closer and watched her son have a dream day from behind the lens of her camera. It was a gift before God brought that ball player home.
Gavin's team is not called the Falcons today. They are the Warriors. They are well ahead of the pack in fundraising and will most certainly play Nats Park this year again, but without #15. If your son's team gets the honor to play on that field this year, your boy could step on the grass that Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth have. He could field a ball and throw to his best friend at first base to get an out on a major league field.
Even better and even more important, this is what your boy should know about this tournament. He could walk on the same grass on which Gavin Rupp ran and fielded and stole bases in the very last game that he played because cancer stole his chance to play again. Your child can know that this tournament is different than all of the others. This tournament and the money it raises could give a child the chance to take the field again.
It will be a privilege. It will be an honor. And it will be a day he will not forget.
Just like it was for this boy. Just like it was for #15.
Photos courtesy of Sandy and Chris Rupp
Jenn Skinner is a Christian and a Texan(Texas Longhorn to be specific!) living in beautiful Virginia with her very patient and funny husband and her 3 very impatient and funny little boys/ball players, She joined the fight against Pediatric Cancer with Kyle's Kamp in 2013. She also writes about just about everything and nothing and the ridiculously abundant life God has gifted her at her blog, The View From Behind Home Plate