Baseball and the struggle for redemption

This seems like an appropriate week to consider the heroes that walk among us.

It was four years ago that I first saw this memorable story about Rodney Mason, a paralyzed, ex-con doing a little something for the poor kids of Newark.

I’ve wondered periodically whatever happened to Mason and the kids. Now I know.

Yesterday, “A Chance to Win: Boyhood, Baseball, and the Struggle for Redemption in the Inner City” was published. it’s a book about Mason from former Newark Star Ledger reporter Henry Holt, that chronicles a season after the original TV news story.

An NBC News blog carries a chapter excerpt today:

It began with a trickle: a child here, another there, and soon there was a crowd. Among the first arrivals was Derek Fykes, who arrived with his grandmother Irene. He was ten but had the face of a tired man: eyes narrowed, brow rumpled, lips slack.

He had just been removed from his father’s apartment by the state child welfare agency. This wasn’t the first time he’d been abruptly pulled from one home and placed in another. Probably wouldn’t be the last, either. Irene worried about the lasting damage of an unsettled childhood. But baseball was one of the few things that helped Derek regain his footing.

Derek was an anomaly in that he’d played Little League before. Just one other boy, a heavy trash-talker named William (who went by “Pooh”), had any experience. The others were young and scrawny and clueless; most didn’t have gloves, and some didn’t know if they threw right-handed or left-handed.

Find the whole excerpt here.