LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A young Arkansan is back home after becoming a breakout star at this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Weekend.
10-year-old Jacob Teel, from Delight, earned lots of fans with his performance, including some Hollywood A-listers.
“We got to meet Jamie Foxx,” he recalled Friday, “and Jennie Finch and Jason Taylor.”
Jacob took lots of photos with stars from the worlds of film and sports. He was selected to be a sideline reporter for the MLB All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game last weekend. He asked them “if they like to hunt and fish, and who was their favorite baseball player, and who was their favorite team,” he said.
“[Organizers] mentioned that he may get to hit, or throw the ball around, before the game, when he’s doing the interview process, and if that would be okay,” recalled Monica Teel, Jacob’s mother. “We’re like, ‘Yeah, that would be great, he would love that.’”
But former World Series champion Al Leiter wanted more for Jacob. Before his turn at bat in the bottom of the first inning, he told the broadcast crew from MLB Network that he wanted Jacob to take his turn at-bat.
Without much prodding, Jacob took Leiter’s bat and strode into the right-handed batter’s box. Was he nervous?
“Excited,” he said.
But his parents saw the big picture.
“Getting to watch him on the big monitor, you know, the mega-screen up there, it was exciting,” said his father, Jason Teel. “Very, very, very exciting.”
And the bigger picture.
“My husband was having to [calm me down] because I was crying, of course,” Monica Teel exclaimed. “And screaming and yelling when it was going on, because it touched me so much, being able to see him do something like that.”
She was crying because, normally, Jacob would have to stay in the dugout. He has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and while he is in remission right now, this is his third time to be in remission, so his parents fear that his cancer will return.
“Every time you hear that, it’s just heartbreaking all over again,” Monica Teel explained. “I mean, those are the words you never want to hear, as a parent, and each time we heard them, it just hit us like a ton of bricks every time.”
This time, however, they had a hit was worth cheering. After swinging and missing on a couple of pitches, Jacob, with advice from Hall of Fame inductee Ivan Rodriguez, he made contact, and reached base with a single. Minutes later, former big-league catcher Benito Santiago hit a home run. Jacob rounded third and scored the first run of the game.
Most of his teammates gave him high-fives along the third-base line, and then he coolly touched home plate. Again, it appeared to be no big deal for a boy who has faced one of life’s worst curveballs for seven of his 10 years on Earth.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him to get to do something like that,” Monica Teel said. “For any child to get to do anything like that. And just to be able to put it to the side and know that he can do that, and run, and physically be able to handle it was amazing in itself. But then, just to see him be able to do that, with everything that he’s gone through…”
“You know, definitely something that we’ll remember forever,” Jason Teel added.
Jacob attended All-Star Weekend thanks to Stand Up to Cancer, a non-profit that raises money for cancer research. His brother and parents also got to go, and celebrate that he’s been in remission for the last year and a half.
They spent several days in Florida, enjoying the time together as a family.
“We got to go to the Everglades,” Jacob said, “and we got to go to the All-Star Game.”
The star turn on national television surprised his whole family. “Jacob would get to go down there and be the sideline reporter, and if nothing else, we’ll get us kind of a mini-vacation out of it,” Jason Teel said of his expectations for the trip. “It’d be nice to get away for a few days.”
The Teel family returned to Arkansas on Thursday. Friday, they spent the day at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where Jacob receives treatment every week. He also makes frequent trips to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for immunotherapy.