Inspiration comes in many forms but for Waxahachie High School sophomore Kolton Smith the game of baseball was his inspiration as he fought acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Fully recovered from his five-year battle with cancer, the 16-year-old finished an outstanding season with the Waxahachie Indian junior varsity baseball team in which the team finished as district champions with an overall record of 19-4.
“It means everything to be back on the field. Baseball means a lot to me. If I would not be able to play baseball I do not know what I would be able to do,” he said.
During his toughest fight with leukemia in 2008, Smith had the opportunity to visit one of his baseball inspirations, Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton and Smith spent a day together at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as the reigning American League MVP encouraged Smith to keep fighting and to return to the game he loves.
“I know that he has been through a lot of struggles with drugs and alcohol in his life and at the time I was still in the middle of my treatments and it was a struggle. He told me to keep going, keep praying and that one day it would all be over,” Smith said.
Hamilton’s words proved true as Smith’s battle with leukemia has been over for about a year, but he is not done fighting cancer as a whole.
Hudson Smith, Kolton’s older brother, has been participating in Relay For Life events since Kolton was diagnosed with cancer and this year he decided to up his level on involvement and raise money for the event.
“We have been a part of Relay For Life for a couple of years but this is the first time I have tried to raise money. Before, I have just helped out and was around while others were doing it,” Hudson said. “I am taking donations, selling luminaria bags that people can decorate in honor or memory of somebody and I am also selling raffle tickets. We are raffling off a kids’ playhouse as the big prize and the second prize is a pass to Showbiz Cinema.”
Hudson, a senior at Waxahachie, wanted to do even more for Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society so he asked Kolton if there was anything he could part with from his extensive autograph collection that they could auction off with all the proceeds going to Relay For Life.
“He wanted to auction something off and I collect autographs so he came to me and asked if I could find something,” Kolton said. “It was hard to give away my Josh Hamilton bat but I knew it would be a popular thing to sell. I have a lot of other autographs but I thought that living where we do and everybody loving Josh Hamilton it was the best. I thought that it could potentially raise a lot of money for Relay For Life, which is a good thing.”
The Smiths are auctioning off a full-size wooden bat autographed by Hamilton the day that he visited with Kolton at the ballpark. The auction is already under way with bids being accepted online via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We are hoping that some sports fan reads the story and goes, ‘Man, I have a heart for this kid’s heart and all those who are battling cancer’ and donates more for Relay For Life than the bat itself,” Kolton’s mother, Kathy Smith, said.
The auction will continue until 9 p.m. Friday, May 20, when the winner will be announced at the Relay For Life walk at the Waxahachie Sports Complex. Kolton has a photo of Hamilton signing the bat for authenticity and there will be a table set up at the Relay For Life walk for bidders to have one final chance at the bat.
“Back when this happened to Kolton, he was 10 years old. If I had seen this opportunity with the way he loves baseball, I would have bid on the bat for him while helping out a good cause and that is what we are hoping will happen,” Kathy said.
The estimated value of an autographed Hamilton bat is $200, according to sportsmemorabilia.com, but the Smiths are hoping the winning bidder will value the American Cancer Society’s efforts to end cancer as much as they do.
“It means everything to raise this money. I know that some of the money goes to the American Cancer Society and they helped me and my family out a lot during treatments,” Kolton said.
During the battle with leukemia, Kolton continued to play baseball and keep up with his schoolwork as he chose early on not to be a victim and let his circumstance determine his future.
“This kid lives and breathes for baseball. He was in treatment for five years and only missed one year of baseball when he was in very intense treatment,” Kathy said. “Immediately when they gave him the clearance he was in year-round ball. I cannot even tell you how many games that he would be sick at a game and would not even tell us. We would leave the game and go to Children’s Hospital and be in the ER there in his cleats and uniform and they would admit him and we would be there for several days. He has got tremendous determination.”
Hamilton’s words of encouragement were a big influence in Kolton’s drive to return to baseball as were the support of his family, friends and doctors.
“When you get in that situation you can either rise up or just say ‘woe is me’ and I did not want to be a ‘woe is me’ kind of guy. I just figured I would fight it and come out a better baseball player than I went in,” Kolton said.
Kolton did his schoolwork at the hospital, home and anywhere he could during treatments and not even two weeks into returning to school he had to take the dreaded TAKS test.
“The principal called me in and I thought, ‘He has only been in school for a couple of weeks, what could have gone wrong?’ They were very serious. It was Kolton and a few others sitting in the principal’s office and she asked if I knew what had happened. I didn’t,” Kathy said. “She said he had been commended across the board on the TAKS. They were elated because they knew the struggles we had to overcome for that to happen.”
Kolton’s determination with his schoolwork and success in the TAKS gave him the motivation to stay in the battle with cancer his entire life as he wants to become an oncologist.
“I have always made good grades and me being able to keep up my good grades during all that made me think of becoming a doctor and eventually I thought of being an oncologist,” Kolton said. “It would be amazing to play college baseball but my overall dream in life is to become an oncologist, which is a cancer doctor. I want to be that because if my doctor had gone through the same thing I was going through I would believe him a lot more. He would be able to tell me exactly how it is going to be because he actually went through it. You would take his word a lot more. It would just be amazing if I could become a doctor and give real, first-hand, information to the kids.”
Hudson, too, was inspired by Kolton’s fight with leukemia and now plans to pursue a career in public relations after watching the various people come in and support Kolton.
“It is inspirational to anybody to see how he has recovered. If anybody falls down they need to get back up. Not just cancer, but anything anybody falls from, you sink or swim and he swam, showing it is possible,” Hudson said.
While Kolton was in the midst of his battle, the Relay For Life team of Kolton’s Patriots raised more than $10,000 for Relay For Life in his honor. This year, Hudson has teamed up with Heaven’s Angels to raise funds to battle cancer.
“We know without a doubt the funds raised go directly to the persons fighting cancer and their families to aid with so many expenses during treatment,” Kathy said. “We want people to know that when funds are raised to aid with cancer research it directly affects those fighting cancer. During Kolton’s treatment, advances were made through research and protocol would be changed for the better due to these advancements. This research is so important because not only is it leading to a cure for cancer, it impacts the quality of life for people during their fight.”
The Waxahachie Relay For Life walk takes place from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. Friday-Saturday, May 20-21, at the Waxahachie Sports Complex.
“The Relay For Life event itself is huge support, mentally and emotionally,” Kathy said. “When people reach out and give, even just a little, it is really the difference between standing and falling. Words just don’t describe the hope that it inspires. Words cannot express our gratitude for the help and support the American Cancer Society has given our family and so many others. Because of the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life, Kolton has had 16 birthdays and will have many more.”
Contact Chad at email@example.com or 469-517-1455.