NEW YORK -- Dealing with a bully is never easy, especially for a child. When school is supposed to be a fun, safe place to learn, how is one supposed to handle experiencing fear and dread because of the way he or she is treated by peers?Cassidy Warner's answer is
NEW YORK -- Dealing with a bully is never easy, especially for a child. When school is supposed to be a fun, safe place to learn, how is one supposed to handle experiencing fear and dread because of the way he or she is treated by peers?
Cassidy Warner's answer is simple: "Speak up."
In March, 10-year-old Warner posted a silent video on Facebook holding pieces of paper that described the forms of bullying she has endured. This included her classmates spitting on her, pulling her hair and spilling milk on her jacket. Warner also wrote that she's been pushed, kicked and had her life threatened, and when she sits at a lunch table, other kids leave.
The video ended with her message, "This is my story. Stop bullying! Not just for me, for other kids, too. Please share my story! Thank you for watching!" The post exploded on the Internet and was being shared around the world.
"[I started to realize I could make a difference] after all these people started reaching out to me," Warner said. "It makes me feel great."
When the Yankees saw it, the team decided to respond with its own silent video having players hold papers that told her that they were inspired by her bravery and that she had friends on the New York Yankees.
On Tuesday afternoon, Warner spent time with her new friends playing kickball at Heritage Field as part of the Yankees' 10th annual celebration of HOPE (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Week. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Austin Romine, A.J. Cole, Neil Walker and some of the coaches teamed up with a group of sixth-graders from the anti-bullying organization "No Bully" to assure Warner that she is not alone.
"Everybody, at some point in their life, go through bullying," Judge said. "Especially now with social media. People can get bullied online. It's tough now in elementary school and middle school and stuff like that. So the biggest thing is trying to be a positive role model and be nice and respect people."
The kids and players split into two teams and took the field. Warner was not used to having so much attention, which caused her to be a little shy while playing. The 10-year-old spent most of her time with her family on the sideline and at shortstop when her team was on the field. She took the mound with Betances for an inning and seemed to warm up to both the reliever and Romine.
"People get into that comfort zone of being shy," Romine said. "You could see she was hanging out with her mom and stuff like that. It just breaks my heart because I want her to join the fun. I wanted her to be involved and get involved and sometimes it's a hard nut to crack. But you saw her get into it. You saw her kick a couple times. Dellin Betances had her pitching. It's hard to break in there, but once you get in there you can really see the joy in their faces."
Although her message has impacted the entire team, the cause hit home a little bit more for Romine. The catcher said he was bullied for being overweight throughout early grade school. Because of the way bullying made him feel as a child, he wants to do whatever he can to make sure that it doesn't happen to others.
"It was rough for me, but it is for everybody," Romine said. "That's why I wanted to be here today. I'm not about bullying. I stress to my two children that we stand up to people who can't stand up for themselves or choose not to. Bullying really hits a core to me. It made me feel bad when I was a kid and I don't like that. I'm out here trying to preach positivity and trying to make sure we focus on the positive things about people rather than the negative things that put them down."
The game ended with a gathering in center field as the vice president of strategy and development of the No Bully organization, Erik Stangvik, spoke to the group to make sure Warner knew how courageous she has been.
"We have a saying about rather being a bystander, being an 'upstander' and really standing up and challenging the situation and standing up for your friends," Stangvik said. "Ultimately, it's just being kind. It's a pretty simple way to walk through the world. To Cassidy, I just want to say thank you for sharing your story and your real courage and bravery in talking to the Yankees and telling the world about what you think is important."
Warner left the field to go have lunch with her new friends at Yankee Stadium before watching them take the field against the Nationals later that evening. Warner was asked to throw out the first pitch for Tuesday night's game in honor of all she has accomplished.
As Warner left the field, she was asked if she realized that she is changing the world. Warner just nodded with a smile.
"She's trying to give hope and for her to be that brave to come out with a video like that and us just trying to parlay that message, I think that's the biggest thing," Betances said. "We are just trying to deliver a powerful message to stop the bullying. That's something you don't want to experience, obviously. She's a very brave child to do what she did, and I think her message is being heard across the world. She did a tremendous job."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.