This spring the Princeton baseball team won’t just be warming up with training drills, they’ll also be helping to warm the hearts of a special little boy and his family.
This past October the Tigers adopted five-year-old Ray Fantel, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy type 1, and his family as honorary members of the team through their efforts with Team IMPACT, a group that works to improve the quality of life for children facing serious illnesses by pairing them with local sports teams.
Team IMPACT case manager Payson Sword explained, “For Team IMPACT kids, access to a team-based support system can be life changing—not to mention the smiles, laughter, and ability to look forward to the next practice or game instead of the next doctor’s appointment or therapy.”
When Ray and his older brother Ethan attended their first Princeton practice, they were presented with items they would need to root for their new teammates: t-shirts, megaphones, foam fingers, banners, sunflower seeds and bubble gum.
“The players really made the boys feel like a part of the team,” said their mother, Marcy. “This has been such a positive aspect of both the boys’ lives.”
Getting involved and attending practices with the Tigers have been something the brothers look forward to. Players throw to Ethan in the batting cage and he participates in fielding and strength and conditioning drills, whileRay, who has never walked and cannot sit up without assistance, likes to lighten the mood during practice by driving his power wheelchair on the field.
The boys are not the only ones benefitting from the partnership. “Being part of Team IMPACT has been a tremendous experience for everyone associated with our team,” said head coach Scott Bradley. “We have all really enjoyed getting to know the family, and our players look forward to the days Ray and Ethan come to practice. Watching how the Fantels live life is a great lesson for all of us. We look forward to sharing great memories.”
Ray and his family look forward to cheering on Princeton when the team’s home schedule opens on Saturday, Mar. 29 versus Harvard. The Fantels hope the community will join them in supporting a team focusing on not only runs, hits and strikes, but also in supporting one little boy who may never round the bases on his own but still plays with all his heart.
For more information on Team IMPACT, please visit www.goteamimpact.org.
Special thanks to Team IMPACT for contributing to this story and Marcy Fantel for photographs.