More than 450 youth baseball players, representing 40 teams, played in a special baseball tournament Saturday at Waxahachie’s Optimist Park.
Kyle Lewis’ four-year baseball career was cut short when he played his last baseball game at the Optimist Park four years ago. He was 7.
A month and a half later he passed away from Primary Amoebic Meningoencepilitis, an amoebic parasite that infects the brain.
The Kyle Cares Tournament was sponsored by the Independent Baseball Tournament Association to raise funds to for a nationwide awareness and to provide information to players and parents about PAM.
The teams came from all around the DFW metroplex area and the players ranged in ages 6 to 14 years old.
“We sponsor a tournament just about every weekend. This is the third year for this special tournament, the Kyle Cares Tournament. We really enjoy putting this tournament on,” Optimist Field manager Chim Curry said.
Kyle’s father Jeremy makes sure the tournament is scheduled every year.
“We really enjoy coming here and make sure our reservation is set for next year,” Jeremy said. “They are so easy to work with because they know how to do these well.”
Team members, along with their parents, relatives and supporters began lining up early to check in. The lines were still steady at the main gate as new players and teams arrived for the afternoon games.
Jeremy said a baseball tournament was fitting because of his son’s passion for the game.
“First, we love baseball and baseball was so important to Kyle. So we felt that was a great forum to reach as many kids and their parents to warn them of the dangers of PAM,” Jeremy said. “Typically, we get two responses: The first being a very heartfelt and sincere concern of what happened to our son and what could happen to theirs. The second response is we’ve swam in lakes, ponds and rivers all my life and nothing has happened to me or my kids. Those types do not see the possibility is real.”
Jeremy then tells the families that PAM is something to be concerned about.
“This is a real threat to you and your child’s life. It is 99 percent fatal once contracted, yet is 100 percent preventable. Then I show them a poster filled with pictures of other children that have had the same fate as Kyle,” Jeremy said. “I then tell them I hope you never have to be by your child’s side to experience the emotions and trauma that your child will have as you helplessly watch them pass away before your eyes.”
Jeremy reminds people this tournament is 100 percent not for profit.
“We use the funds raised through this benefit tournament, another in Mansfield and two golf tournaments to offset the expense of our awareness program,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy and his father Monty have traveled to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta to further study PAM and made a $10,000 donation to search for a cure. They have also attended conferences in Philadelphia to attend Brain Health fairs and conferences.
“This awareness is just not here and where we live in Midlothian, it is a nationwide program,” Jeremy said. “There is a medication in Germany that will combat this. It has been tried there with success. A young lady is there with us today that wouldn’t be here otherwise. We need to get this medicine in the United States and that is one of the causes we’re are working towards.”
One of the warnings Jeremy gave to some people passing by their tent is that the amoeba is not only in stagnant ponds, it is in ponds with flowing water, creeks and rivers. It is in large lakes and has been found during testing at 100-feet below the lake’s surface.
“If you must swim in fresh bodies of water, try to keep your head above the water so water does not enter through your nose or mouth, or wear a swim mask or nose plug,” Jeremy warned.
Jeremy began coaching Kyle when he was 3.
“I was there every step of his life. I was at every practice and at every game coaching him and his team members. Those are treasured memories,” Jeremy said. “But Kyle is still here in mind and spirit. Both his mother and I have a necklace with his ashes in them so he is still at every game with us.”
Kyle’s grandfather is appreciative of how his family has handled the death.
“I am really proud of them the way they approached Kyle’s death,” Monty said. “They started this campaign so that hopefully, not another parent will experience what they have.”
Jeremy thought about returning to coaching after Kyle’s passing, but now watches from the bench while spreading his message.
“I really miss the coaching and being out on the field, but at this point, I couldn’t go back.” Jeremy said. “My involvement and enjoyment comes for the cheers from the stands, the high-fives between the kids and a father hugging his child after a good play, That’s what I really have come to enjoy.”
The trophies for the tournament were donated by Ken Johnson of Cutting Edge in Midlothian.