The Yankees have been making headlines quite frequently of late, mostly not for positive reasons. First there was the trade for Aroldis Chapman after the price to acquire him plummeted following allegations of domestic violence. Then there was Lonn Trost and his desire to keep the peons from mixing with the elites at Yankee Stadium through the banning of print-at-home tickets. Finally, Aroldis Chapman was suspended 30 games under MLB's new domestic violence policy. It has probably been a rough few months for the Yankees' head of public relations.
However, in a stunning turn of events, the Yankees did something nice this past week. I know, I was surprised too. On March 7th, the team signed ten-year-old Landis Sims, born without hands or lower legs, to a one-day contract. Sims, a massive Yankee and baseball fan, had met with the team a few years prior. This time around, he was allowed to partake in spring training activities with the team, such as batting practice and hanging out in the locker room.
Many children dream of playing professional baseball, but few will ever reach the big leagues. For far too many children, their dream of playing professional baseball is quashed at the onset of illness and disability. However, in addition to the signing of Sims this past week, the Yankees have previously invited three children to join their roster on one-day contracts, providing these children with the opportunity of a lifetime.
The previous three children to become Yankees signed with the team as part of HOPE Week 2014. Through the organization Friends of Jaclyn, 12-year-old Ryan Tucker, 11-year-old Sean Callahan, and 4-year-old Quinn Ostergren signed with the Yankees on June 18, 2014.
All three children were battling brain cancer at the time and were thrilled by the surprises the Yankees had in store for them that day. The children signed their contracts in the press room, where the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury once signed theirs. They participated in team stretching and batting practice, received lockers in the clubhouse, and spent time in the dugout with the team.
The event was quite meaningful for all of the children involved. Tucker was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three, underwent four surgeries, and had finally just completed treatment. Having grown up a massive Yankee fan, Tucker stated, "I always wanted to be a Yankee since I was 4. It feels pretty good to wear the pinstripes. I'm having a lot of fun."
Ostergren, Tucker's younger cousin, became the first female to ever sign with the team. Her dad grew up a huge Yankee fan, and after the day's festivities, her mom said, "I married into [being a Yankee fan], but I'm very happy to be a Yankee fan."
The final child who signed a contract during HOPE Week was Callahan. After being diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two, he recovered but was diagnosed once again at ten years old. He was known to have inspired everyone he met. After all, not every child suffering from cancer writes a book called Don't Give Up: Advice from a 10 Year Old Cancer Survivor. During his time at Yankee Stadium, he spent the entire day smiling, and was rendered speechless other than an "awesome" upon arriving to the clubhouse. Unfortunately, Callahan passed away in 2015 at the tender age of 12.
Like most of us, I cannot even attempt to understand or describe what it is like to suffer from major disability or brain cancer as a child. All I can do is thank the Yankees for stepping up and making these kids' dreams come true, and for increasing the hope in the world, even just through the experiences of these four children.