Lavelle had petechiae, tiny round spots that signify leaks in the smallest blood vessels. Blood work revealed a platelet deficiency. A lump protruded in her throat and necessitated a biopsy, Lavelle’s first invasive procedure.
Shortly after surgery, doctors pulled her parents aside. MaryAnn Lavelle steadied herself for bad news as soon as she saw her mother’s face.
“They said I had Hodgkin Lymphoma,” Lavelle said.
Before the 2013 season, the girls at Lee voted 17-year-old Lavelle a team captain. The senior did not have a single varsity at-bat under her belt, but maturity blossoms under duress.
Lee is not a powerhouse. The Lancers are a 9-9 team this season with the No. 5 seed in the Virginia AAA Patriot District tournament, which begins Wednesday.
Lavelle calls the pitches. Her self-imposed obligation to uplifting others allows her the freedom to be blunt.
“MaryAnn doesn’t have very much tolerance for stupid,” Chris Ann Lavelle said. “She’s very honest, but she’s intensely loyal.”
As a captain, MaryAnn Lavelle’s duty is to maintain a grip on the team’s commitment. Lee Coach Suzy Willemssen said this year’s squad plays for passion. No matter the previous day’s results, the girls show up on time, practice intensely and do not tolerate “drama.”
“They don’t do it for the college scholarship,” Willemssen said. “They don’t do it to see their name in the paper. They do it because they love to compete and be with their teammates.”
With MaryAnn’s example at the forefront, the Lancers have enormous heart. Four of Lee’s wins were decided by one run, including a May 4 nail-biter against West Springfield won by the cancer survivor at catcher.
Like she did last year, Willemssen wanted to dedicate one home game to supporting cancer patients. This year she chose Leukemia as the cause. The players wore orange T-shirts and strung up orange balloons. More than $350 in profits from concessions went to Kyle’s Kamp, an organization that has raised more than $500,000 dollars for pediatric cancer treatment at Children’s National.
When Willemssen realized she had a former patient of the hospital on her roster, she asked Lavelle throw out the honorary first pitch.
Lavelle helped sing the national anthem before taking the circle and tossing a ball that sailed just outside of the strike zone.
She had better luck once she moved behind the plate.
It takes a village
After receiving their daughter’s diagnosis in 2007, the Lavelles sought aggressive treatment. Chris Ann Lavelle was a registered nurse before becoming an inspector at an engineering firm. She shepherded her daughter through the medical jargon and set a placid tone for MaryAnn’s comeback.