The fall baseball season isn't supposed to start until next week, but one Prattville little league team made sure their starting pitcher and his father had the game of a lifetime.
It's Ryan Parrish's first time on the pitching mound. The 11-year-old is hoping for “just strikes,” he said.
Sadly, Ryan’s first game of the season could be his dad’s last opportunity to watch his son play ball.
“Over the summer we found out my dad had cancer,” said Ryan, choking back tears.
Ryan's dad, Gary, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and metastasized to the liver in June.
"He played last year, and Gary was at every game," said the boy's grandfather, Roy Parrish. "And this will probably be his only game, so it means his life actually to come see the game.”
Gary’s father said Tuesday’s game was happy and heartbreaking at the same time. Gary’s liver is 60 percent covered by cancer, and the family had no choice but to call on Hospice last week.
In August, doctors pulled 20 lbs of fluid off Gary’s abdomen and stopped treatments Sept. 1 because his body wasn't responding anymore. Needless to say, this summer has been difficult on the Parrish family.
Ryan’s Prattville Dixie Youth Baseball Team USA Coach, Caison Whatley, first noticed that Ryan’s parents were abnormally absent from practice.
"When he first got out here, he didn't have a whole lot of focus, and I found out why. He's got a whole lot more on his mind than we could ever have,” said Whatley.
When the coach found out about the severity of Gary's condition, he went to the city to get the fall rec league's game moved up a week, so Gary could watch his son take the field one last time.
“We want to give Ryan something to cherish for the rest of his life and this may be it,” said Whatley.
Whatley says coaching little league is more than just baseball. “It’s not all about the wins. It’s about what you can do for that child, give him everlasting memories.”
It’s the type of memory that Ryan and his family will hold on to long after the bright lights on the baseball diamond fade. “He may not be here for the other games and tonight is very special because he gets to come here tonight,” said Ryan.
The boy hopes to wear the number 21 for the rest of the season. It’s the same number his dad wore when he played sports as a teen.
The Parrish family says Haynes Ambulance of Alabama generously volunteered their services to transport Gary to and from the game.