Springtime is a time for birds to return, flowers to bloom, plants and trees to regenerate and kids to play baseball. Such was the case four years ago at a local little league playground. A special fan, unable to play sports like the other kids, Jacob Bales, then 12, watched his favorite team from behind the backstop, always cheering for the Cardinals. Jake would even show up for practice. Standing behind the backstop, face swollen from his disease, faithfully at all the games. Coach Dean Jordan, a man that is totally at home with kids, noticed this and started to plan. How to get this kid a shot at being on the field in a Cardinal uniform.
One of the minors division teams, the Cardinals, managed by Dean Jordan, had a mascot. Jacob was stricken with a rare disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a disease of the immune system, about seven years ago. A rare condition that normally attacks males between the ages of 30 and 50, he was diagnosed at age nine. Short of breath, weak of muscle, he cheerfully watched and cheered for his team. For two years, Jake’s parents wouldn’t let him play, due to his precarious condition. Finally, after some cajoling by Manager Dean Jordan, they relented toward the end of the season. “If there were a “most inspirational player award in little league, he would have won it, hands down, said former Cardinals manager Dean Jordan.”
With five games left, Jake proudly donned the uniform of a Cardinal. By this time, every player in the league knew of the kid that wanted so badly to play baseball, if only he could. Jake was assigned to third base. As John Shaffer, Little League president put it, “Jake was a natural. Put a bat into his hands and he would hit. When he hit a single, the team would send in a pinch runner.” Finally, in “field of dreams fashion,” the last game of the season occurred. As Shaffer, who in touring the games that day said, “I wanted to see what was going on with Jake, so I stopped by the last game.” “He went up to bat this last time, swung and missed twice, then crushed the ball.” It went sailing out of the park. Stunned, both benches emptied, as players from both teams cheered him on as he struggled around the bases. He made it to second, then slowed down, out of breath. Struggling on, Jake hobbled around third and headed for home. Manager, Dean Jordan, speaking of Jake, said, “He inspired me to be a better coach and a better person, as well.”
Jake never played again. April 3 of this year, Jake came home for the last time. His services were held at the Bayview Community Center, Thursday, April 10.A celebration of a shortened life, but one that still inspires players and adults alike, Jacob Bales was indeed a superstar.
Wild Card/Thursday -- 4.28.16
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