With smiling faces and open arms, the Cabrini softball team held a press conference to welcome two of their newest players. Nine-year-old Jordyn Zajac and her 12-year-old brother Coy have officially signed to be on the softball teams roster for this upcoming season.
Obviously Jordyn and Coy are not your average collegiate athletes but they have experienced hardships and bumps in the road just like any other athlete has.
Jordyn was diagnosed with Shwachman Diamond Syndrome (SDS), a condition that affects the body but more specifically a bone’s bone marrow. Bone marrow produces blood cells but SDS prevents the bone marrow from producing the necessary amount of white blood cells.
In return it makes the body vulnerable to sicknesses and at two and a half years young Jordyn was constantly tested for before finding out she had SDS. Before she dug into her ice cream sundae with her new teammates, Jordyn explained how excited she was in such a colorful and animated manner that only a nine-year-old could.
“I’d like to go outside and get some fresh air and just hangout,” Jordyn said. “I feel like I’ll be a part of the family.”
While Jordyn stressed the importance of the team camaraderie, her brother Coy had a few aspirations of his own.
“I want to win championships and not lose a game,” Coy said.
When talking about his goals, he also mentioned how he felt to be a part of the team.
“It’s just amazing how it feels, the inside of your body just shakes randomly,” Coy said. “It feels good.”
Coy has had his bouts with illnesses as well. He was diagnosed with asthma and eventually had surgery to remove a plastic disc from a nebulizer that was blocking his airways.
With all of the adversity that Jordyn and Coy have faced, head softball Coach Mitchell Kline feels it is his duty to create memorable experiences for Jordyn and Coy that will last a lifetime.
“They’ll suit up. Before the game, the [players] put eye black on, so they’ll put eye black on the kids, they’ll wear their visors, they’ll wear their jerseys,” Kline said. “If there’s an opportunity that we can introduce them when we introduce the players, hopefully we can do that if it’s within NCAA rules.”
He stressed the importance of wanting his players to see the bigger picture. For Coach Kline, softball is “just a game.” He expects the best effort from his players but he knows that the situation at hand is far more important than just wins and losses.
“Hopefully our kids, by getting a chance to know Jordyn and Coy and seeing how strong they are and how much fight they have, they’ll learn a lot from that and it’ll be a great experience for them, “ Kline said.
Sophomore utility player Stacie Roller had a similar out look on the situation as well.
“I just hope to bring them joy and something to keep their mind off what is going on back home,” Roller said.
Director of Athletics and Recreation, Brad Koch was responsible for connecting Jordyn and Coy to Cabrini through an organization called Team IMPACT. This is the first year that Koch came in contact with Team IMPACT. Their main focus is to uplift children with illnesses and life-threatening conditions by having them drafted to selected college athletic teams. Cabrini is trying to move in a new direction to have its student athletes giving back.
“It’s important for our student athletes to do as much as we can under the umbrella of Division III,” Koch said. “Part of that is to provide our student athletes with a well rounded experience and that means being active in the community and engaging with the community and working with Coy and Jordan is a big part of that.”
The Zajac parents were there in support of their children. They are grateful for the opportunity and excited that their children will mesh with the team.
“It was nice to see that the college cares enough to reach out and brighten the day of these two kids,” Chris Zajac said.
“I think it says a lot about the [college] and what they stand for and what they’re trying to do.”
Kim Zajac added her thoughts and gave her three main focuses for her children.
“Camaraderie. An extended family, friendships,” Zajac said.
According to Koch, Cabrini has stepped up and is getting other sports teams involved and feel the need to continue to make a difference in their community.
“We’re doing it with other sports a well and it’s my hope that we continue to expand and this relationship with team impact will continue to grow,” Koch said.