Team from down under lifts cancer patients’ spirits with visit

Sometimes cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, just need a smile to get through their day.

That’s what 14 players with the team from Perth, Australia, who played in the Little League World Series, gave back to patients Friday at Susquehanna Health’s Divine Providence Hospital.

At least one of the players knew firsthand the struggle such patients have putting on a game face.

“I lost my auntie and grandmom to cancer,” said Todd Hatcher, 12, a pitcher and first baseman. “I lost auntie last year and my nana in 2006,” he said. “It’s nice to give back to people who need a smile.”

For Gail Price, a resident of Montoursville undergoing treatment for lymphoma, the visit lifted her spirits and won’t soon be forgotten.

“It’s so nice that they wanted to come here,” she said. Smiling broadly and shaking the players’ hands, she said, “they are so well mannered.”

“It’s so nice to meet you,” said Russ Ritner, of Watsontown, in the medical oncology room. He chatted it up with the team. “Would you like a pin,” a player asked him as other players asked if he played baseball.

“No, I played football and ran track,” he said.

“My daughter played softball,” Ritner said.

The players, most with tufts of blonde hair, peeking from their caps, took a moment to recline in the vibrating chairs in the room. Mitchell Brown, 12, a centerfielder, said the visit was among the memories he will take home with him.

That, and the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jay’s game and visiting Original Little League field in Williamsport.

“They considered it to be a privilege and honor if they could give back to their hosts,” said Marlin Cromley, a team uncle who helped to arrange the visit with Susquehanna Health employees.

The players also visited patients undergoing rehabilitation in the outpatient physical therapy room, where they signed baseballs for fans and tried out the treadmill and exercise equipment, throwing weighted balls onto a trampoline and thrilling the medical staff with their energy and presence.

Alexia Harrison, 11, of Williamsport, a fan of the team, whose father works at the hospital, said it would be a day she won’t soon forget.

“It’s not about wins and losses,” Cromely said. “It’s about giving something back and the memories.”

Zach Artingstall, 12, who played the outfield and pitcher positions, agreed with the team uncle.

“I didn’t know I was going to make it here,” he said.

Artingstall said he was excited about the hospital visit.

“I was quite excited to see patients at the hospital, to make their life a bit more happier.”