A stiff-brimmed baseball cap. A bag of uncracked peanuts. A field of spring-green grass. Baseball’s opening day always brings a sense of renewed possibility to players and fans alike, even when the chances of winning a championship are stacked against them.
Sixteen-year-old high school baseball player Diego Alvarado has faced longer odds than most. Diagnosed with epilepsy as a baby, doctors finally managed to treat his seizures effectively by the time he was three, but his illness caused him to be developmentally delayed. Then when he was in middle school, aggressive leukemia struck. Doctors treated him with chemotherapy that badly damaged his joints. Alvarado ended up in a wheelchair and underwent two hip replacement surgeries.
Diego’s father, Colorado State Trooper Ivan Alvarado, told Neil H. Devlin of the Denver Post that he noticed Ivan was laying around the house, “being lazy like a teenager…but he had no quality of life.” He and the doctors decided to discontinue Diego’s chemotherapy, because as Ivan explained to Devlin, “We were faced with the decision of quality of life vs. quantity of life.”
They made the right decision: When the chemo ended, Diego transitioned from the wheelchair to a walker, and then told his P.E. teacher he was ready to go out for the Bennett High baseball team.
Coach Joe Stemo welcomed Diego on the team — Ivan didn’t even know his son had talked his way onto the Tigers’ roster. With two games under his belt, Diego has made contact with the ball, walked a few times and scored a run. Teammate Jonathan Cretti told Devlin, “It’s crazy how far he has come. He couldn’t even stand up in P.E. Now he’s playing baseball. And he’s always working his hardest. It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve seen.”
For the Alvarados, who immigrated to Colorado from Guatemala, Diego’s progress is just the thing that (ballpark) dreams are made of.
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