Back in the game, young survivor inspires Jimmy Fund Little League

July 01, 2014

David Ortiz with Patrick Skiba

Patrick Skiba (pictured in 2010 on left with brother Joseph Skiba and David Ortiz) just completed his first season of organized baseball, but the 7-year-old "designated hitter" for this summer’s Jimmy Fund Little League Presented by Extra Innings already has friends among the sport’s local legends.

In 2010, during his treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Skiba appeared on the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon with Big Papi, Boston Red Sox slugger and World Series hero David Ortiz. Skiba also received a gift that year from then-Red Sox manager Terry Francona: an authentic team jacket just like the pitchers wear on cold days in the bullpen.

The jacket was too big, but Skiba’s parents used it to measure his progress. "If Patrick got better, and continued to grow,” his mother Candi Skiba recalls, "he would no longer be swimming in it."

Today, with Patrick’s cancer in remission, the jacket fits. With his strength improving, he was able to play Little League for the first time this spring – with his father urging him on as team manager.

Stories like Patrick’s are at the heart of Jimmy Fund Little League, now in its 28th year. Each summer, more than 5,000 baseball and softball players throughout New England compete in local tournaments once their regular seasons are over, and off the field raise funds for Dana-Farber through neighborhood canister collections, car washes, bake sales, home run derbies, and business sponsorships. Last year’s young athletes raised more than $215,000 for patient care and research at DFCI.

Kids learn the importance of philanthropy and volunteerism while working together to strike out cancer, and the winners are not the teams scoring the most runs, but the players collecting the most money – a distinction that earns them recognition on the field at Fenway Park before a Red Sox game in September. Patrick will be on the Fenway grass as well, along with his parents and brothers Joseph and T.J., to honor the winners. He plans to wear the Francona jacket.

For the Skiba family, it will be the culmination of a long road, including two years of treatment and months spent on the sidelines waiting for Patrick to regain the energy needed to play.

"It’s very satisfying, especially given the challenges around his muscle development and the impact his treatment had on him physically," Chris Skiba says of his son. "He’s done great, and it was terrific to see him out there playing like any kid. Now, going to Fenway with him, just like I used to with my father, we’re seeing baseball pass through the generations."

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