August 2, 2013 | by Dominique Grignetti
Every year the Little League World Series returns to South Williamsport, Penn., to celebrate the best of youth baseball. And every year, one young player is honored for the most important quality of all: good sportsmanship. The national honor, the Good Sport Award, is given to a Little Leaguer who demonstrates superior sportsmanship, a desire to excel and overall admirable actions.
This year, the selection of Jaylon Fong, a 12-year-old, two-time cancer survivor, brings even more meaning to the award. Jaylon exemplifies qualities that transcend baseball or any other sport: perseverance, leadership and courage.
First diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, Jaylon has been undergoing treatments for most of the past four and a half years at City of Hope. But when it comes to driving forces, Jaylon’s love of the sport and his desire to play with his teammates trumped even his leukemia treatment.
“Baseball helps me forget about my treatment. I go out there and just play,” said Jaylon. “I love pitching and striking people out.”
Although many pitchers may have to ice an arm after games, Jaylon has battled his disease constantly.
In August 2012, Jaylon closed out the California District 19 Championship Game, sealing the win for his team with a strikeout. A few days prior to the championship game, Jaylon had undergone a spinal tap and heavy chemotherapy. Finding the energy to play a sport immediately after such treatment is rare, but Jaylon was determined to play in the championship with his team. His ability to continue playing baseball amazed his doctors.
“Treatments and procedures take a significant toll on the body,” said April Sorrell, M.D., Jaylon’s pediatric hematologist at City of Hope. “For Jaylon to go from the hospital to the field and compete as an athlete has shown unbelievable perseverance and bravery.”
Jaylon has now achieved remission from his leukemia for the second time in his young life. Although participating in the West Covina Little League hasn’t been easy, Jaylon’s off-the-field accomplishments and hard work haven’t gone unnoticed by Little League.
In choosing Jaylon as the 2013 Little League Good Sport of the Year, the organization pays tribute to the core values that Little League seeks to teach players. Jaylon serves as a role model, showing that anything is possible when you refuse to give up.
Jaylon continues to receive chemotherapy, radiation treatments and blood and platelet transfusions, and have monthly hospital stays. With the support of his family, teammates and medical staff at City of Hope, Jaylon is using his battle with cancer to raise awareness and support for a cure. On behalf of City of Hope, he speaks at public events and spreads his story in the hope of inspiring others who fight cancer.
The 67th Little League Baseball World Series starts Thursday, Aug. 15, with the Championship Game scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 25. Jaylon will be recognized at the Little League Awards breakfast on Thursday, Aug. 22, in South Williamsport.
For more information on the series and to follow the action live, visit llbws.org.
To follow Jaylon, go to Jaylon Fights Leukemia at facebook.com/jaylonfong.