SARASOTA, Fla. -- It started with a Facebook post.Ryan Powell, the Orioles' head of independent scouting, just wanted to see his mother, Wendy, smile again. Diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in June, Wendy had lost a little of her trademark zest and kept telling her son she
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It started with a Facebook post.
Ryan Powell, the Orioles' head of independent scouting, just wanted to see his mother, Wendy, smile again. Diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in June, Wendy had lost a little of her trademark zest and kept telling her son she wanted to see him play again. So, Powell put his catching gear on and caught one of his friends throwing a bullpen session. He posted the video on his Facebook page on Feb. 18, figuring that way a couple hundred friends and family could see it, too.
The video went viral, with approximately 10,000 views, and Powell started to get some phone calls. One of them was from the Orioles, who arranged for Powell to suit up and play an emotional final inning in Tuesday's intrasquad contest.
"It's such an amazing day," said Powell, who was slated to play in a Class A game but went earlier to beat the rain. "One of the most special moments of my life to get that feel back, to give my mom that."
With his parents looking on, Powell laced a ball into center field and Wendy -- who uses a wheelchair because of cancer-related neuropathy -- was so moved she sprung up out of her chair. The ball was caught, but the emotion was just beginning as Powell walked off the field in tears and handed Wendy the bat.
"We didn't get to see his last game and it bothered him," Wendy said of her son, who draped his Orioles uniform around the back of her chair. "We were very pleased that we got to see him play again. It's surreal."
When Powell, who used several different bats on Tuesday, first heard the news that he'd get to play again, he wanted to make it about more than just his family. So, 14 of the custom Victus bats, inscribed with "One more game for you, Mom" will be autographed by Major League players and auctioned off for various cancer-related charities.
One of those bats is being auctioned online at orioles.com/auctions to benefit Shannon's Fund, an endowment at the University of Maryland Medical Center dedicated to providing financial assistance to hospital patients and their families. In 2008, the Orioles and OriolesREACH established Shannon's Fund in memory of Shannon Obaker, the club's former director of community outreach, who bravely fought cancer for a year before she passed away in 2007 at the age of 29.
"We know it's not just us. There's so many families, this is so much bigger," said Powell, who is carefully vetting charities for the remaining bats. "It touches every family in the country. How often do you see in an interview someone that was not given that long [to live] and 10 years later they are doing just fine. And every single one of them says it's because of my support system and because of my family. And what better way to bring families together than the national pastime?"
Wendy has watched countless games with her son behind the plate, as Ryan played four years in independent ball and had a tryout for the O's in the spring of 2013 before opting to go the scout route. But nothing quite compared to his final appearance.
"I knew it would be very emotional and I'm very happy," Wendy said, blinking back tears. "It was a very nice experience."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.