Inspiring Youngster Throws out Ceremonial Pitch at 3rd Annual CHC Night at the Phillies
Sister Carol gives Owen Frenia a chance on the mound.
For the past two years, Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., president of Chestnut Hill College, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the annual CHC Night at the Phillies event. And while her arm still had plenty enough juice in it for another pitch in 2016, Sister Carol opted to offer someone else a chance at throwing a perfect strike, which is exactly what Owen Frenia did when he took the mound representing Team Impact and the CHC Baseball team.
“I will never forget this moment,” beamed the 11-year-old Frenia. “It was an awesome experience.”
Frenia, a resilient youngster who was diagnosed at age two with neurofibromatosis (NF) type 1, a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth and the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue, was introduced to the CHC baseball team through Team IMPACT in 2013.
Making a difference in the lives of countless children worldwide, Team IMPACT is a non-profit organization focused on improving the quality of life for children facing life threatening and chronic illnesses. Team IMPACT harnesses the powers of teamwork and the human spirit by linking these courageous kids with various collegiate athletic teams. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto local college teams and, to the greatest extent possible, become an official member of the team for the duration of their treatment and beyond.
Frenia was just nine at the time of his official signing day with the Griffins, but even then Bob Spratt, head baseball coach, knew that his newest recruit was something special.
“Owen is a future left-handed pitcher for the Griffins,” he said at the 2013 annual Red/Yellow game which served as Frenia’s introduction to CHC baseball. “He has incredible toughness and resilience that will impact our team in so many positive ways. I am looking forward to Owen being a part of our CHC family. He has already shown an uncanny knack for calling pitches, so the CACC needs to be aware of him in our dugout.”
Immediately embraced by his teammates, Frenia has had the chance to experience the dugout, practices and even road trips, but nothing was quite like the chance of the lifetime he received in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Phillies game.
"This experience was a dream come true for him and he continues to reminisce about that day,” says Dan Frenia, Owen’s dad. “What made it even more special was having Austin (DiBonaventure, senior outfielder) and Bob by his side. We are truly grateful to Chestnut Hill College; the broader administration, athletics department and alumni for everything they have done for Owen. Chestnut Hill College and Team IMPACT have done an exceptional job creating lasting experiences for Owen that have enabled him to remain resilient during the difficult times of his treatment."
Frenia started chemotherapy in September 2013, and every Monday for 58 weeks he visited Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for treatment. It was not an easy course as he battled an infection in his port (the tube where the chemo enters his body) and several allergic reactions to the various types of chemo. Frenia will continue receiving an MRI every three months to monitor the tumor.
Through it all, the youngest member of the baseball team has handled it all with grit and optimism, serving as a great source of inspiration for his teammates and epitomizing what it means to a Griffin.
"We take pride in our teammates’ accomplishments and this was a tremendous way for our baseball team to start the year," says Spratt, whose entire team attended the game, sitting behind the third base dugout to cheer on Frenia during his first pitch.
“Owen blistered his fastball for a strike in front of thousands! He proves every time he is with us that he is a team leader. He means the world to us and is a true inspiration. I am proud that he is a Griffin and he pounds the rock every day!"
— Marilee Gallagher ’14
This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Connections. To read more from that issue, click here.
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