'Keep fighting': Inside Royals' bond with young fan fighting cancer

August 8th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- The green, silicone bracelet  wears on his right wrist is small, nearly unnoticeable, and only when you’re looking closely do you see the flash of green as he drives a ball over the fence or fires a throw in the field.

But for one Kansas family, seeing that bracelet means the world.

On Sept. 8, 2021, 11-year-old Kolby Gable was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Recognized as fast growing, Burkitt’s is associated with impaired immunity and is rapidly fatal if left untreated. Over the last year, Kolby has gone through intense treatment, while also making countless memories.

And on Friday, the Gable family received good news: Kolby is in remission after PET scans and bone marrow results came back clear of cancer.

“It’s still unreal,” Shaun Gable, Kolby’s dad, said. “He’s feeling good, back to himself, crazy as always. It’s been awesome.”

The good news made its way through the Royals organization and clubhouse on Friday afternoon, and the elation was noticeable because of the impact Kolby made on the team in June. The Royals hosted the Gable family for two days at Kauffman Stadium, and Kolby made some lifelong friends in Melendez and , both of whom wear the “Team Kolby” bracelets, and several Royals staff members.

“Seeing him and talking to him and wearing this bracelet now is one of the smallest things I can do to help,” Melendez said. “Hearing his story, meeting his parents, it really touched my heart, and I want to spread awareness any way I can for Kolby and others who are going through similar things.”

Any time the Gables tune into a Royals game or see photos of the team on social media, Kolby can pick out the bracelets on Melendez and Witt.

“It’s really awesome,” Shaun said. “It means a lot. They came out and talked to him, but to continue seeing the bracelets on them now, I mean, I get emotional thinking about it because it truly shows they still care.”

Royals Charities coordinator Jonathan Rosa first connected with the Gables through a mutual friend and invited them to Kauffman Stadium on June 23, an off-day for the team. Shaun is a lifelong Royals fan; Kolby is starting to enjoy baseball, too, although his favorite sports team is still the Seattle Seahawks.

“I like the colors,” Kolby admitted with a shy smile.

Rosa took Shaun and Kolby on a private tour of the stadium, including the home clubhouse, the control room where Kolby got to turn on the fountains at The K, and Royals owner John Sherman’s suite, which was decked out with goodies and a Royals City Connect jersey with “Gable” and No. 14 (Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf’s number) on the back.

The next day, ahead of the Royals’ series-opener against the A’s, Rosa took Kolby and his family down to the clubhouse. Melendez came out to meet the family after Kolby said the rookie catcher was one of his favorite players.

“MJ is pretty cool,” Kolby said. “He was really nice.”

Melendez chatted with the family and gave Kolby a bat, which is now mounted on Kolby’s bedroom wall.

“If I didn’t know what he was going through, I wouldn’t have guessed it,” Melendez said. “He was happy, in a good mood. He’s a great kid.”

Kolby met more players in the dugout shortly after -- Witt, Brady Singer, Brad Keller and others.

“I told him we were all pushing for him, that I hope he keeps fighting because he’s got a ton of support here now,” Witt said. “That’s why we do it. Baseball is our job, but we have an opportunity to do some good.”

The Gables were visiting during the Big Slick Celebrity Softball Game, which benefits Children’s Mercy in Kansas City. It’s hosted by Paul Rudd and other celebrities from Kansas City, so Kolby met Rudd during the Royals game.

At the end, Rudd signed Kolby’s custom-made Royals jersey:

To Kolby, Go Seahawks! -Paul Rudd

A few days after Kolby’s trip to Kansas City, he and his family went to Philadelphia for treatment, one of two cities that was offering CAR T-Cell Therapy, a new approach to cancer treatment that uses the body’s own immune cells to kill off cancer cells. It’s relatively new for children, so the Gables didn’t know what to expect.

“They told us it would be serious,” Shaun said. “But what other option do you have? With his cancer, we had to do something.”

Throughout the five-week treatment process, Kolby’s Royals jersey hung on the wall of his hospital room. Shaun updated the Royals, all the way up to Friday, when Kolby’s remission quickly made its way through the front office down to the clubhouse.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has a story,” Rosa said. “Everyone is going through something. And unfortunately for Kolby, he’s going through something that nobody should have to go through ever in their life, let alone at a young age. We have a great group of guys that recognize that this is bigger than baseball. To be able to see our guys step up is very special.”