Baseball signs John ‘Parker’ Staples, nine-year-old with lymphoma

Non-profit ‘Team Impact’ also leads swim and dive to bring on six-year-old with cerebral palsy

sp-ParkerStaples-CourtesyVirginiaAthletics

John "Parker" Staples  signed a draft day letter during a press conference while surrounded by the entire Virginia baseball squad April 16.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

John “Parker” Staples, a nine-year-old with lymphoma and longtime baseball fan, has spent the past two weeks making memories as a member of the Virginia baseball team.

The baseball team announced the signing of Staples in a ceremony at Davenport Field at Disharoon Park on April 16. He signed a draft day letter during a press conference while surrounded by the entire Cavalier squad.

“Some of the leadership of our team talked to us this fall about being engaged in something like this … spearheaded by [junior right-handed pitcher] Chesdin Harrington,” Virginia baseball Coach Brian O’Connor said.

Staples and the Virginia baseball team were brought together by Team Impact, a non-profit organization based in Boston that arranges connections between children with serious illnesses and collegiate athletic teams.

“We made the connection with Team Impact that we wanted to be involved in the program, and then it was a matter of finding the right match,” O’Connor said. 

Team Impact also recently partnered on April 27 with the Virginia swim and dive team to make Cary Lynn Fields, a six-year-old with cerebral palsy from Bumpass, an official team member.

“Team Impact is a fantastic cause and our student-athletes have had a great experience being involved with Cary Lynn [Fields],” Virginia swim and dive Coach Todd DeSorbo said.

Staples, from Waynesboro, was matched with the Cavalier baseball team due to both his proximity to Charlottesville and his passion for the sport.

“The boy loves baseball, and he’s from just right over the mountains, so it was a terrific fit,” O’Connor said.

Harrington said that the team was thankful for the opportunity to take on Staples.

“We were fortunate enough to get Parker as a match … and we got some things in gear, got a couple guys to help out and make this thing special for him,” Harrington said.

Fields became a part of the swim and dive team for similar reasons.

“She … loves the water and music,” DeSorbo said.

Staples has attended every home game since his signing, though he cannot be in the dugout due to safety concerns. He was in attendance for the Cavaliers’ three-game home series against Clemson at Davenport Field at Disharoon Park this past weekend. 

“He came into the team huddle after both wins … even though it was 9:30 or 10:00 at night, the boy stayed here,” O’Connor said. “He came out onto the field and called it up for our team when we say one-two-three-Cavs.”

Fields was equally excited to sign with the Virginia swim and dive team on Friday.

"Her mother told me she was up at 5 a.m. this morning wanting to put on her orange and blue for the day's signing,” DeSorbo said. “To know that we are having that type of impact in her life is heartening.”

Though he has only been around the team for roughly two weeks, O’Connor has noticed Staples’ impact on his team’s players, as well.

“When you have a young person like that and has battled adversity … our players enjoy being around him, talking about baseball, and just being little kids around him,” O’Connor said. “His spirit, the energy that that young boy has, is pretty impressive.”

“The guys on the team have the ability to impact one individual but a guy like Parker impacts the 34 guys on our roster,” O’Connor added.

The baseball season is almost over, but Staples has left an indelible mark on the team, and will hopefully continue to do so into the postseason and beyond. DeSorbo said he believes Fields will do the same for Virginia’s swimmers.

“Our staff and student-athletes are excited to have [Fields] joining our program and we look forward to having Cary Lynn on the deck at future practices and home competitions,” DeSorbo said.

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