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The Champ

Kevin Eadie, 11, a batboy for the Peninsula Pilots since 2002, suffers from Niemann-Pick Type C, a fatal disease that affects speech, balance and cognitive abilities.
Kevin Eadie, 11, a batboy for the Peninsula Pilots since 2002, suffers from Niemann-Pick Type C, a fatal disease that affects speech, balance and cognitive abilities. (By Lisa Billings For The Washington Post)

"You should have seen him then," Jewell Reid, Brenda's sister, says wistfully as she watches Kevin now.

On this July night, as always, Dylan Moody, 10, is next to Kevin by the dugout. He calls her his "apprentice." "She helps me when I need help," Kevin explained earlier, while clowning around in the bleachers before the game. Then he patted her on the head like a puppy. She gave him a silly smirk back.

When he speaks, Kevin's voice is slow, halting, slightly slurred. He often has trouble getting out the words that have formed in his head. That doesn't deter him. He'll tell you all about himself, how he loves night shopping trips to Wal-Mart and foosball and doing homework (okay, he admits, that one wasn't true). He brags about how many songs he can sing. This time, he isn't teasing.

"Welcome to the Hotel California," he chortles. It's the sixth inning, and the music is coming over the loudspeakers, and as he sings along, Kevin gives his hips a little wiggle.

From their box behind the dugout -- at War Memorial Stadium, a "box" consists of a patch of concrete with some lawn chairs and a plastic table -- Brenda watches, along with Reid and her husband, Larry, and family friend Pat Okrasinski ("Aunt Pat," Kevin calls her). They are Kevin's other team, and Brenda's support system. Brenda's a flight attendant for United who flies out of Dulles (Bob is a pilot), and her family -- along with nannies -- covers for her when she has to be away. This summer, though, Brenda took every vacation day she had to make sure he didn't miss a Pilots game.

"Get a hit!" Kevin says as outfielder Mike Mitchell walks by, and he pats him on the helmet on his way to the on-deck circle. Roenker, the pitcher, stops for a thumb-wrestling match, which Kevin wins, as always. "You cheat!" he teases. Kevin giggles, then, out of the blue, throws his arms wide and embraces the player in an unexpected hug. Roenker looks caught off-guard, but only for a split second. He hugs back. Fiercely.

Kevin sits down on the seat attached to his walker. Sometimes he gets a little tired, but he always makes it to the end, even on the night the game went 16 innings. Brenda unwraps a vegetarian hot dog and starts adding the ketchup, the relish, the mustard. Just the way he likes it. "He must be so hungry by now," she says. She reaches through the gate, hands the hot dog to her son.

Sometimes, it takes some effort for Kevin to swallow -- another symptom of the disease. But Kevin wolfs it down.

* * *

"My guys are sooo mad now!" Kevin says, trying to make a mean face. A foosball game is on, and he's down, 6-5. Using the levers on the table to maintain his balance, he leans in, waiting for the next ball to drop. Blue scores again. 7-5.

"My guys are soooo angry now!" he says.

But he stages a comeback, scores four straight points, then goes in for the kill when the game's eventually tied at 9. Victory! He does a little dance and, like the older players he adores, tries to talk a little smack.


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