The Chapman men’s baseball team looks to finish off the last two weeks of the regular season strong before heading into playoffs – but a playoff spot is not all the team is playing for.
This week, Head Coach Scott Laverty and the Chapman Athletic Department held a press conference to announce the signing of 5-year-old Little League player and baseball fan Carter Ankeny, who has leukemia.
Carter, who is currently undergoing both outpatient and inpatient treatment from the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which affects the white blood cells in the bloodstream and bone marrow, in the fall. A few months later, Team IMPACT, an organization that pairs children who have chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, heard about Carter and reached out to Chapman.
The signing was held on the third level of the football stadium, in the president’s suite, and every measure was taken to ensure the event was as authentic as possible. Carter, who arrived accompanied by his parents as well as his 2-year-old sister, walked into the room to find his own customized jersey, an agent, cheerleaders, the Panther mascot, about 20 members of the baseball team, reporters and more.
Carter sat at the main table along with his family, Laverty and adjunct law professor Leigh Steinberg, who volunteered to be his agent.
“Today the Panther’s baseball program is signing Carter Ankeny to a celebratory letter of intent,” Laverty said. “A few things that caught my eye about Carter in the recruitment process were his work ethic, determination, his fiery will to come out straight from the get-go and his ability to just blend right in with the team.”
Not only will the partnership help Carter through difficult times, but the baseball team believes it will benefit from it just as much if not more than Carter.
“Eighteen-to-22-year-olds get caught up in a lot of different things and Carter will really just help us ground our perspective,” Laverty said.
Senior pitcher Connor Williams said it is helpful to see how positive Carter is able to stay.
“He even went to a doubleheader and was standing the entire time just cheering us on and giving everybody high-fives,” he said.
Carter is the first child Chapman has had from Team IMPACT. Stephanie Argyros is on the regional advisory board of Team IMPACT and helped with the process of bringing Carter to Chapman.
“Draft days can be really fun and they can also be very overwhelming, but they really are a great time for the kids to really feel like they are an official member of the team,” said Pamela Sullivan, who is the regional director for Team IMPACT.
Carter, who is currently going through chemotherapy, was noticeably overwhelmed during the press conference of about 50 people, but afterward he was able to unwind and have some fun while running around on the football field.
“The first Chapman practice he went to he ran the field four times and led the team in warmups and he was so exited to be there,” said Carter’s mom Jamie Ankeny. “He keeps talking about his new teammates and how he went from Little League to college in one year.”
As of right now the plan is for Carter to stay with the team for three years, which is the length of his remaining treatment.
CORRECTION: Connor Williams was incorrectly identified as a junior in a previous version of this story.