For a young baseball fan, there’s nothing quite like seeing the pros live and up close.
That was the plan for Josh, a Boise-area elementary student, whose family had plans to see a Boise Hawks game in late July.
But a visit to the doctor a few days before the game yielded something that canceled those plans and changed a young life.
Josh had a brain tumor and was quickly scheduled for a procedure at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.
Though it went well, Josh faced a difficult recovery, including a temporary inability to speak. But his family and the St. Luke’s team had an idea to help inspire him as he recovers — bring the players to him.
Just four days after connecting St. Luke’s licensed clinical social worker Brianna Breese and child life team members with Boise Hawks general manager Mike Van Hise, three Hawks players arrived to visit Josh.
“It was pretty awesome to have everyone come together and do it so quickly,” Breese said. “He was very excited. Compared to where he’d been at, this was the most we’d seen him smile since he came in.”
Pitchers Noah McBride and Luke Malone, along with catcher Ronnie Allen, spent time with Josh in the skybridge, giving them some space to play a few games.
“You could tell he didn’t have the energy he normally would, but the joy was obvious,” McBride said. “He loved shooting at us with Nerf guns, kicked our butts in air hockey, had a big smile as we tried to hit the Nerf darts with these little lightsaber toys … it was really rewarding for us to be a part of it.”
St. Luke’s presents a skills and drills clinic before each Boise Hawks Saturday home game, while the team wears custom jerseys with St. Luke’s Children’s graphics.
McBride said the visit to St. Luke’s landed on just the second day this season where the team was off and wasn’t traveling. He noted that for himself and fellow players, they were once in Josh’s shoes, looking up to the guys throwing 90 mph or hitting 400-foot home runs.
Prior to arrival, the players didn’t know much about Josh, but once he was there, McBride felt an instant connection.
“When I was 8, I had an operation because I had a tumor on my optic nerve,” McBride said. “Those doctors did such an amazing job, kept my sight intact … I also couldn’t help but notice Josh and I have a similar scar.
“At the end of the day, kids may not remember me for my (earned run average) or how many strikeouts I had, but how I impacted them. I’d love to be known for that.”
And based on the reaction from Josh and his family, the players’ visit will go a long way not just in his recovery, but down the road, too.
“His parents weren’t able to be there, but they were so happy for him to be able to experience that and after, they said how thankful they were for it to happen, all of it,” Breese said.
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.