A police escort to Kokomo Municipal Stadium last Tuesday night was in order for the newest signee to the IU Kokomo baseball team.
Thomas Satterfield, 9, was met by coaches and players met with “welcome” signs and resounding cheers and brought a big spark to the Cougars on a cold and windy night in Kokomo. Satterfield, who has cerebral palsy, recently signed his letter of intent with the Cougars with Team Impact, a national program that pairs children diagnosed with serious or chronic illness to a college sports team.
“We’ve only been able to interact with Thomas a few times but, you know, just the joy you see in a kid who has struggled so much already in such a young life. He’s gone through so many real adversities and challenges, and to see the smile on his face every day, I think it gives our guys a different sense of joy and understanding that life’s not that bad,” said Matt Howard, head coach of the IU Kokomo baseball team.
Satterfield joined IU Kokomo athletics in the footsteps of his sister, Hope Satterfield, 6, who also has cerebral palsy and other serious health concerns. Hope signed with IU Kokomo’s women’s soccer team and already has made an impact, according to Terry Stewart, head coach of the women’s soccer team.
“In the 12 years I’ve been coaching, this is already the most valuable and most rewarding process I’ve gone through,” Stewart said. “We get to see a young girl grow, and we are privileged to be a part of that process. We get to help when times are hard. I go home, and I’m so excited to talk about it. I just feel so proud of the ladies for getting involved and wanting to help someone who needs a laugh and giggle. Watching them with Hope makes me proud to be their coach.”
Thomas is sure to have a similar impact on the baseball team, and from the minute he erupted from the car to join his new teammates last week, the experience was touching for everyone.
Team Impact’s goal is to tackle the social and emotional isolation or trauma children with disabilities or chronic illnesses often experience as a result of their condition.
The two-year therapeutic program complements children’s medical treatments and helps them develop relationships and skills that lead to a deeper level of healing, according to Team Impact’s website.
“He’s already had a huge impact on all of us. Our program’s core values are selfless, relentless, and ‘get to’ versus ‘have to.’ We got a guy right here that shows us that every single day he’s around us. Every time we get a chance to interact with him, he exemplifies all those characteristics, and our guys are already learning so much from him. We’re just so pumped to have him a part of our team,” Howard said.
Thomas met and took pictures with all of the baseball players and received his Cougars sweatshirt, donned with the fitting “No. 1” on the back.
The players gave Thomas their signs one by one, and it was clear Thomas was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and grateful for everyone in attendance. He also received a Kokomo Jackrabbits face mask and other merchandise he was able to take home. The experience was perspective-changing for his players, Howard said.
“Our guys really are able to see that they’re blessed. They’re fortunate, and they get to come out here and play a game that Thomas hopefully will be able to play as well,” Howard said.
Thomas is sure to be a wave of positive energy for the Cougars going forward, and he was ecstatic to be involved with the team. He hopes to help deliver more wins, like the one he brought to the team last Tuesday night.