“Are you a baseball fan?” asks Jim Rooker as he sits down next to his new buddy, Brett.
Brett excitedly shakes his head yes, still in astonishment that a Pittsburgh Pirate is sitting at his kitchen table. Although his smile looks as if it cannot spread any further, Brett manages to grin even more as Rooker hands him his very own Pirates jersey. But the jersey is not just an ordinary piece of Pirates paraphernalia. Not only does it have Rooker’s number 19 on it, but it also has Brett’s last name on the back: Brett is officially a member of the Pirates family.
Rooker then describes his time spent with the Pirates. But as he reminisces, he begins digging in a plastic bag for something. “There was a guy on our team—Willie Stargell,” explains Rooker as he hands the young boy a coveted Stargell star and a vintage Pirates hat. And, as a finishing touch, Rooker begins curiously pulling at his finger. Eventually removing his World Series ring, he places it on Brett’s hand. Immediately Brett’s eyes are glued to the piece of jewelry as he traces its ridges with his fingers, memorizing every detail of the coveted piece.
After asking for a picture with him and his new friend, Rooker’s thoughts are carried to a story explaining the beginning of his baseball career. The Pirate states, as a child, he played baseball with his best friend until he was drafted. Although not the greatest player, Rooker explains he tried his best and never gave up on making his dreams come true. To relate the struggles he faced on the road of champion status to the young boy sitting next to him, Rooker gracefully explains, “I had to beat the odds.” He continues, “and that’s what I want you to do,” referring to the challenges Brett has faced as a child battling cancer. Rooker then goes on to say that “people have bad things happen to them. You just have to get through them. Fight. Fight. Fight.”
The conversation takes a more serious turn as Brett’s mother begins discussing the journey Brett experienced as a child diagnosed with cancer. Almost bringing Rooker to tears, Brett’s mom explains her son learned one very important thing from chemotherapy: courage. She states that having such an experience “doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, but you face it, and you do it.” When asked, Brett whole-heartedly agrees with his mom, understandable by the drastic change in his expression. Such a discussion causes the realization that Brett and his family are amazingly strong individuals. Listening to this part of the conversation take place, one can see the overwhelming maturity and strength Brett possesses with wisdom well beyond his years.
Moved by what he has just heard, the retired Pirate makes one more guarantee. As an author of children’s books, Rooker begins composing a new story on the spot. The title of this new piece is Sweat with Brett with the first few sentences already formulated. With this, Rooker realizes he must begin his long drive home. As he is about to walk out the door, the former Pirate envelops Brett in a huge bear hug. More apparent at that moment than ever before, a friendship was born.