Caleb Spady was a baseball fan to the end NewsOK.com
Caleb Spady was so excited about tonight.
He was getting a chance to go to the RedHawks game, and that was no small thing for the 11-year-old baseball junkie from Hinton. Nothing could be better than a summer evening at the ballpark.
Caleb Spady, right, got to spend time with Angels player Reggie Willits, a former OU star, at his Make-A-Wish trip to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
But watching the game wasn’t the only thing on his agenda. So was throwing out the first pitch.
On a night the minor-league club is promoting cancer awareness, the boy who inspired hundreds in his hometown, his home state and beyond was supposed to make the ceremonial throw. His three brothers will throw out the first pitch in his memory instead.
Caleb died on Tuesday.
In the world of sports, we often talk about heartbreak. Dropped passes. Missed shots. Botched opportunities.
This, however, is real heartbreak.
Caleb’s family and friends will gather next week for his funeral, but tonight, many will be at The Brick for a memorial like no other. They will wear bright yellow shirts with "Caleb’s Crew” on the front. They will share stories. They will laugh and cry and smile and grieve.
And they will cheer for the boy who became a real-life hero.
"We always thought his fans would be 10-year-old diehard Rangers fans in about 15 years,” his mother, Kim, wrote in an e-mail. "But it all came too quickly.”
A little over a year ago, Caleb was diagnosed with cancer. It was on his brain stem, and as serious as that sounds, it was worse. Caleb had a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, which means the cancer cells were sprinkled like grains of sand within his brain stem.
There was no way to operate.
Last fall, the Spadys shared the story of their Make-A-Wish trip to Rangers Ballpark. Caleb had always been a Texas Rangers fan, and for a day, he got to be a Ranger. He had his own locker, fully stocked with gear. He hung out in the clubhouse, took batting practice, went through warm-ups and even took the lineup card to home plate.
Caleb left Arlington with a bag stuffed with memorabilia and a mind packed with memories.
(Caleb is in the orange jersey)
There have been many more memories since then. Being on the sidelines during an Oklahoma State football game, then standing with the team afterward to sing the alma mater. Getting onto the field after the final Bedlam baseball game at The Brick and posing for a picture with Cowboy coach Frank Anderson. Going to a Thunder game via police escort.
There were the birthday cards that came by the hundreds. Bryant Reeves sent one. So did Mike McGraw and Dave Hunziker and both OSU basketball teams.
There was also the December afternoon that Caleb and his Hinton teammates went to Lookeba-Sickles for a fifth-grade basketball game. Before tip-off, the Lookeba-Sickles players and coaches presented Caleb with a basketball signed by all of them.
"The rivalry between Hinton and L-S goes way back many years, and some say it begins in grade school,” principal and coach Mike Davis wrote in a note to the Spadys. "But in sports, there is always something bigger.
"I mentioned to my boys that Caleb might get to play in our game. … My boys wanted to do something for Caleb.”
Then, he penned words that will break your heart.
"We hope to play against him for many more years.”
Caleb had ups and downs since the first of this year. Sometimes, he struggled to walk, but even as recently as a month ago, he walked to the snow-cone stand several blocks from his house. Throwing out the first pitch didn’t seem like such a far-fetched notion that day.
Two Mondays ago, Caleb and his father, Ken, drove to Memphis to start an experimental treatment trial. Caleb was tired and groggy the entire time, but Ken figured the drive had just worn him out. He suspected a good night’s sleep would help.
Caleb continued to deteriorate, and by that next day, there was a worry that he might not make it back to Oklahoma to see his family again.
If that weren’t enough, his mom was in the hospital, too. The day Caleb and Ken left for Memphis, Kim had surgery to remove a cancerous growth in her colon. She survived breast cancer several years ago, but then in late June, she learned that she had colon cancer.
Job had nothing on the Spady family.
"I am hesitant to say anything about our faith at this point, as it seems so trite and almost disingenuous,” Kim wrote on Caleb’s Web site earlier this month. "But I do want to say that our faith is not shaken by all of this. We know God is in control and has a plan. We surely do not like the looks of that plan right now, but we do trust him.”
Indeed, Job had nothing on the Spadys.
Kim went back to the hospital Tuesday morning for emergency surgery to remove more of her colon, and back at home, Ken decided to give Caleb a bath.
There, in his father’s arms, Caleb died.
If you happen to be heading to the RedHawks game tonight, be sure to get there in time to see the Spady boys throw out the first pitch. Be sure to remember their brother, his battle and his example. Be sure to stand and cheer and maybe even say a little prayer.
Caleb won’t be there tonight, but like it was so many times before on a baseball diamond, his spirit will be alive and well.