Teen’s wish for Kamiak's baseball field comes true
If 16-year-old Nathan McCarty could have just one wish, it would be to play baseball.
Nathan, a Kamiak junior who has leukemia, decided to share his Make-A-Wish and renovate the baseball field at Kamiak High School. It was his way of giving back to his friends and fellow teammates for helping him through cancer treatment.
“I decided to do this wish because of the support they gave me,” he said. “I wanted to give back to them.”
The makeover added outfield fence windscreens that have Nathan’s No. 11 on a baseball graphic, privacy screens for the home and visitor dugouts, home plate and pitcher mound covers, fence windscreens and more visitor bleachers.
Nathan’s wish was granted on April 29. First to play on the updated field Monday were the Kamiak and Mariner teams. It was Kamiak’s last home game of the season.
Several sports celebrities were there for the unveiling of his wish: Former Seattle Mariner Dan Wilson, former Washington Huskies basketball player Donald Watts, former Seattle Sounder Taylor Graham and Washington Huskies football player Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Kamiak players and parents, volunteers from Make-A-Wish and players from the Glacier Peak and Newport teams had helped fix up the field in a work party on April 28.
“The thing about my wish is it’s lasting,” he said. “It’s going to be there for a long time. I’m going to be proud of that when I’m older.”
Nathan was a sophomore when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Oct. 13, 2011. It is the most common type of cancer in children.
He missed school at Kamiak for the rest of the year while he received chemotherapy at Seattle Children's Hospital. He spent his sophomore season in the bleachers watching his team play.
“It was hard for me to be away from the diamond that long,” he said. “That was pretty depressing for me. That’s where I have my most fun playing baseball. That’s where I’m the happiest.”
It was when he was away from the field that he got the idea for his wish: It was getting old and needed an update.
He and his mom, Shannon McCarty, approached Make-A-Wish Washington. He didn’t want the usual family vacation or to meet a celebrity – he wanted a better ball field for the Mukilteo community.
At first, some didn’t understand why Nathan would choose to give his wish away instead of keeping it for himself.
“I’m really proud of him,” said Shannon McCarty. “I tried to talk him into Italy, but he didn’t go for it. We thought it should be something that was just for him, but he said, ‘It is for me. I want to play baseball.’”
Nathan has returned to school part time and to the baseball team, though his treatments make him tired and he can’t always make it through a whole game.
His cancer is in remission, which he said is due in part to the support of his friends and fellow teammates.
“The outpouring of support for me was absolutely amazing,” Nathan said. “I’ve never had support like that in my life. It’s still with me today.”
After he was diagnosed, 50 of Nathan’s friends shaved their heads in solidarity in the McCarty’s garage.
And when he was out of school from October to June his sophomore year, his friends on the team would visit him at home nearly every day. They would play video games or do homework with him.
“They really help him forget that he was sick,” Shannon McCarty said. “That was key to all that. He would not be feeling well, then they would show up at 2 p.m. and he would be a completely different kid.
“They were invaluable to us. They would pretty much do anything for him.”
Alex Pettibone, also a Kamiak junior, was one of Nathan’s friends who made trips to the McCarty’s house several times a week. He also organized the head-shaving event. He and Nathan have played baseball together since elementary school.
Alex said Nathan’s Make-A-Wish shows a lot about the kind of person he is.
“He could have gone any place, but instead he chose to give back to those who showed him love and give back to the community,” Alex said.
“I’m really proud of Nathan. He’s going through a lot, and he’s really come out stronger and a great person overall. This is one of the ways he’s shown it.”
Nathan is now in what doctor’s call the “maintenance phase,” where he receives chemo at the hospital once a month. If all goes well, he’ll be done with chemo by 2015.
What he’s looking forward to most, of course, is when he’ll be feeling better and stronger so that he can do more of what he loves most – play baseball.
“I’m happy out with the guys,” Nathan said. “This whole time, I just want to be out with the guys and having fun.”