Players travel to Memphis to join teammate at tournament

Thursday, May 9, 2019
Calvin Corbett, No. 2, joins his McCook Cardinals baseball team at a USSSA baseball tournament in West Memphis, Tenn., close to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital where he is being treated for cancer.
Courtesy photo

WEST MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game. AND WHO YOU PLAY IT WITH.

An 11&under baseball team from McCook recently traveled 12-13 hours to play with its entire team, even for just a one-day tournament.

The boys always play their best, of course, but ultimately, it wouldn't matter if they won these tournament games. What would matter was that Calvin was with them again … maybe not on the field, but in the pre-game prayer huddle … in the dugout … joining in the chatter … being the greatest fan in the stands.

Though Calvin wasn't able to play in the games, he hit some balls and sat in the dugout, where, at one point, he visited with team mate Kooper Rakes.
Courtesy photo

Calvin Corbett is an 11-year-old McCook boy who's been fighting Stage 4/Group IV/high-risk rhabdomyosarcoma ("RMS") cancer at Children's Hospital in Omaha and at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., since about this time last year. It was early-season 2018 when Calvin, the son of Tiffany (Jones) and Chris Corbett, was diagnosed with cancer and his baseball season as second baseman, outfielder and pitcher for the McCook Cardinals was sent to the dugout.

Because Calvin's fellow Cardinals missed him last year and again this summer, his baseball team and their families drove 855 miles to see Calvin, and to play in a one-day USSSA tournament in West Memphis on the Saturday before Easter.

Coach Chad Graham said, "The boys wanted to see Calvin … the tournament was just the excuse to go that far."

The Cardinals attended a Memphis Redbirds baseball game, and Calvin led team mates on a tour of St. Jude's. Team mate Simon Garcia is also sidelined, due to a broken leg.
Courtesy photo

The Cardinals had hoped that Calvin could suit up for the day and play, but those cards just weren't in the deck. "But he hit balls with us, sat in the dugout and laughed and joked around," Coach Graham said.

Chad and fellow coaches are all proud of just how competitive their team was in the tournament games. All the other teams were from the southern United States, and they start earlier in the season and play so many more games than a Nebraska team can by this time of the year, Chad said.

The Cardinals played Mississippi's elite, No. 1 team in their first game, and lost by just 6-5. They tied the Rawlings Tigers, of Arkansas, 2-2, in the next game, and then lost to the Tigers 9-2 in their third game.

"We were very competitive," Coach Graham said. "We were very happy with the boys … very proud of their effort."

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Tournament organizer Thomas Martin renamed his tournament the "Play for Calvin One-Day Egg-stravaganza" after learning about the McCook team's determination to see Calvin. For the McCook team, the tournament experience started off great, as the Batters Box Gray team from Tennessee met McCook's contingent at their hotel Friday evening with Easter baskets for the boys.

On Saturday, the tournament struggled against the rain, and Martin postponed all games but those in the Cardinals' age division. "They ran a sump pump to drain the field, and did so much extra work so that this age division could still play," Chad said. The 11&Unders raised $3,000 for St. Jude's and the Corbetts, and Martin will donate proceeds from the rescheduled games (on June 1) also to St. Jude's in honor of the Corbett family.

On Sunday, Calvin and his mother led Calvin's team mates and their families on a tour of St. Jude's and they all attended church at St. Jude's. They ate lunch at the Corbetts' Memphis apartment and then attended a Memphis Redbirds (a St. Louis Cardinals farm team) baseball game.

The weekend was a happy experience, Chad said, until it was time to leave. "Leaving was tough … really tough," he said, quietly, "for the boys and for their parents."

But they'd like to make another trip in the fall. "We're looking for another tournament, to see Calvin again," Chad said. "Trying to win one game is the excuse, but we all want to see Calvin again."

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Families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food from St. Jude.

If the family of a patient has health insurance, as the Corbetts do, St. Jude bills the insurance plan.

However, the Corbetts are still dealing with what insurance doesn't cover, all the very unexpected expenses of a major medical crisis and ongoing expenses of daily life as they split their time between a home and family in McCook and Calvin in Memphis.

There is an account for Calvin at McCook National Bank for those who would like to make donations to help the young family concentrate on helping their son fight this cancer, rather than worrying about how to pay bills.

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Cardinal team mates are Calvin and his brother Oliver, Trenton and Tripp Raile, Brody Graham, Trey Tiller, Brody Anthony, Kooper Rakes, Simon Garcia, Cason Waugh, Noah Mashek, Aiden Lauer and Ty Junker. Vince Mashek is the bat boy.

Their coaches are: Dave Anthony, Matt Tiller, Travis Raile, Lance Rakes and Chad Graham.

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