For the Love of the Game

Dillon Papier hits a home run in the Championship Game on June 22. Dillon's Dad, Mark Papier, pitches the winning shot to him.


In a recent conversation, Michael Hayden, president of the Urbana Hawks softball and baseball league, shared a fantastic, local story that I wanted to pass along to our community. Hayden lives with his family in the Villages of Urbana. Here is a the story in Hayden’s words:

Surely, the baseball gods were looking down on our league and more particularly on Dillon Papier. The 2012 Urbana Hawks softball and baseball program had a very difficult decision to make with regard to how our community friend Dillon Papier could participate in the more competitive 10U kid pitch division.

Dillon’s story may be familiar to you — it has been very well documented in local publications. He has a rare metabolic disorder known as Neimann-Pick disease type C, which at this time is a terminal condition. As a result of his ailment, Dillon has very limited mobility, which normally would prohibit him from playing kid pitch baseball for safety reasons.

Thankfully, a group of parents who volunteer as coaches came to a very quick agreement about how to keep Dillon’s dream of playing baseball with his friends alive. The eight coaches got together and devised a plan that would allow Dillon to play. Dillon’s father, Mark Papier was allowed to pitch to Dillon, which he does on a regular basis in their backyard, at the start of an inning when Dillon was due to hit. Each team agreed Dillon would have a lead off home run each time. This was the only way to keep him safe. Defensively, Dillon would play outfield with his father by his side.

This is such a great gesture by all the participants of the 10U division. So many kids are capable of playing sports, but few have a devout love for the game. Dillon possesses an extreme love for the game but was robbed of his ability to play. Dillon is an inspiration to the entire league and our league is better with him in it.

Now, to give a nod to the baseball gods! On June 11, Dillon’s team — the Nationals — coached by Gary McKee, earned a spot in the 10U division championship game vs. the Giants, coached by Pete Tomasulo. In a day where too much emphasis is put on winning and not enough on development and enjoyment of the game, it is only right that the boy who loves the game of baseball so dearly gets to play in a championship game.

The Nationals carried a record of 4-6-1 on the season, placing them sixth out of eight teams. Though the Nationals lost the championship game, they were still victorious. Dillon was able to continue playing the game he loves, which is a testament to all those involved in the decision to allow him to play at this level. To top it all off, Dillon was given the opportunity of a lifetime when both coaches in the championship game allowed him to pitch to Charlie Bundy.

As a long-time member of the Urbana Hawks organization, it is with great pride that I share this story in hope that parents, players and fans are reminded to appreciate the love of the game. With this in mind, we must remember that passion and love are not measured by a player’s ability, but by his heart.

To assist the Papiers with the awareness campaign and funding for NPC Type C research, the Dillon Papier Charity Golf Tournament is being held Sept. 21 at Hollow Creek Golf Club. To participate or sponsor, go to www.dillonsfight.org. Also on the first Monday of every month (including Aug. 6), Foster’s Grille in Urbana donates a portion of the evening’s proceeds to the National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation in honor of Dillon.

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