TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Shouts of "Roll Tide!" echoed throughout Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Saturday morning, but the holler wasn't coming from the fans; it was coming from the newest member of the Alabama baseball team: No. 15, Grayson Anderson.
Grayson was partnered with the Alabama baseball team through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, which helped to make him the newest member of the Tide squad. The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FOJ) is a non-profit, charitable organization formed in 2005 that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families. Friends of Jaclyn matches a child in need of love, support and friendship with a college or high school sports team on a geographic basis. After adoption is complete, the child becomes an extension of the team where a unique bond is formed between the team members, the child and the family.
On Oct. 2, 2008, when he was only two years old, Grayson was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor was surgically removed on Oct. 6, 2008, however a follow-up MRI on Feb. 10, 2009, revealed residual tumor in his brain stem. The tumor is still present but has not grown.
"We realized that the University of Alabama understands the purpose behind community service and it's a great fit, a win-win, for both Grayson and the Alabama baseball team," said Danny Lam, a volunteer from the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. Lam lost his own daughter, Devon, to a brain tumor in December, 2008.
A four-year-old boy from Midland City Ala., Grayson was given his own locker and baseball gear to help him fit in with his new teammates. Grayson and his family participated in all of the team's activities during the day from start to finish. The day began with on-field, pre-scrimmage warm-ups and ended with him and his family enjoying the postgame meal.
"It's almost like medicine - for so long you hear the bad, the bad, the bad, and you just know the bad, but this way we can just focus on him and the players can focus on him," Brandon Anderson, Grayson's father, said of the day. "It allows the whole family to just forget about the brain tumor and just focus on the good."
Grayson was originally welcomed to the Tide baseball family last season and it was decided during the offseason to officially make him and his family a part of Alabama baseball.
"He calls all these guys his brothers right now, so he knows what this means to him," Brandon Grayson said.
The relationship between Tide baseball and the Anderson family will continue to grow. The team realizes that this is a commitment that they will continue to dedicate themselves to for years to come.
"The biggest thing for our guys and for the Anderson family is that this isn't a one-day event," head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "This is something that we're taking on where we want to be there to support Grayson and his family in those difficult days that they have."
Not only has Grayson become a part of the team, he has become a part of the Alabama baseball family.
"He's welcome back whenever he wants," junior outfielder/infielder Jon Kelton said. "He's a part of the team now."