Fullerton, Calif. – Eight year old Coben Swanson officially joined the Cal State Fullerton baseball team on Monday evening after signing his Letter of Commitment during a press conference held at Goodwin Field.
With the entire 2016-17 Titan baseball team and a large student-athlete contingent in attendance, the Titans also pledged to join Coben in his fight against Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (ALL).
"We pride ourselves on the fight that we have here (at Cal State Fullerton), and to have Coben, who is our youngest person to ever sign a National Letter of Commitment, show the fight that he has, is an example for all of us in Titan Athletics," said Director of Athletics Jim Donovan.
"Tonight is a very special night for us. As a whole department. Not just the baseball team," said sixth year Head Coach Rick Vanderhook, sitting next to Coben, Coben's mother, Brittany, and current Titan pitcher John Gavin.
"Tonight, we're going to sign an 8 year old. Coben, that means I have to coach all the way until 2027. I don't know that I'm going to last that long coaching. But I will be here when you get here in 2027 to play. Sound good to you?"
Coben agreed and upon signing the document, Coach Vanderhook presented the newest Titan with his very own pinstriped jersey with his favorite number 2 on the back. In addition to the jersey, Coben received special personalized messages from former Titans, Phil Nevin, Justin Turner, Michael Lorenzen and Kurt Suzuki that played on the Goodwin Field video board.
"This has been a blessed pairing for the both of us, and we're super fortunate," said Brittany about the Titans joining the Swanson family.
"Not only is Coben joining the Titans, but the Titans have already joined our family. It is more than teams crossing on the field, these guys are really joining our family."
A number of Titans have visited the Swansons at their home in Yorba Linda, just to hang out and spend time with Coben and his little sister, Saffryn. Brittany, Saffryn, Coben and his father, Jon, have made their way way out to a couple of Titan practices so far.
The two families teamed up together with the help of Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto college athletic teams, local to where they live, and to the greatest extent possible, become a member of the team from Signing Day through to Graduation.
Having been at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) since his diagnosis, the Swansons have gotten to know a lot of other kids being treated and heard about Team IMPACT though one of Coben's friends, who was also in attendance.
"We've seen the impact it has made on them being a part of Team IMPACT and their ability to regain motivation, to be active, to be out on the field with whatever sport they are joined up with," said Coben's mother.
"To see him come out on this field and see these guys, and be motivated… the very first time he walked through those gates, he was greeted by hi-fives the whole way down. The first thing he said was, 'I want to run bases' – this coming from a kid that has been laying in bed for almost an entire year.
"For me, just to see the warmth and excitement has been so encouraging."
Coben is not only fighting the leukemia. A rare complication has caused him to have to have a large portion of his skull removed to alleviate pressure on his brain. He has been waiting to be healthy enough to have it repaired, and it looks like that time has come. Should Coben remain healthy enough through Wednesday, he will go into surgery to have his skull repaired this Thursday (Oct. 13).
"This is something bigger than what we're doing," said Gavin. "We're so fortunate just to be healthy to play our sport and just to be where we are.
"Coben is such a great kid and always has a smile on his face and he's a real inspiration to all of us."
If you would like to help the Swanson family, a GoFundMe.com page has been set up for them at gofundme.com/b4jzggkc. As of today, over $22,000 has been raised of their $52,000 goal. The link will be posted on the baseball page until their goal is met.
ABOUT COBEN: Eight year old Coben Swanson of Yorba Linda, Calif., is on the road to recovery from a Nov. 2015 diagnosis of T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), brain hemorrhage, craniectomy and cranioplasty. He is currently battling the side effects of chemotherapy and has been teated at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) since his diagnosis. He is the son of Jon and Brittany Swanson, and big brother to sister, Saffryn (5).
Coben looks to get his strength back so he can get back to his favorite activities like swimming, surfing, skiing and going to Disneyland. He enjoys corn dogs and playing Minecraft as well as collecting Lego – especially those with a Star Wars theme. He is a huge Star Wars fan and got a great surprise when he was visited in the pediatric intensive care unit by by the real Luke Skywalker, actor Mark Hamill, along with his fictional father Darth Vader and a storm trooper courtesy of the 501st Legion (a fan-based Star Wars organization).
GoFundMe.com To help Coben and his family financially, visit a GoFundMe page set up for them at: www.gofundme.com/b4jzggkc?ssid=769033023&pos=1
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Official Hashtag: #teamcoben
ABOUT ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIA: Leukemia — or cancer of the blood — is the most common childhood cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 2,700 children are diagnosed with leukemia in the United States each year. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as ALL, is the most common form of leukemia that occurs in children. It is characterized by the presence of too many immature white blood cells in the child's blood and bone marrow. While ALL can occur in adults too, treatment is different for children.
The term "acute" refers to the tendency of this disease to progress rapidly. "Lymphoblastic" refers to the white blood cells, which are also called lymphocytes. Normally, lymphocytes mature into an important part of the body's defense system against infections. In ALL, normal development is interrupted and the result is an overabundance of underdeveloped cells either "crowding" out the red blood cells (limiting oxygen to tissue and platelets that help with clotting) or invading other organs like the spinal cord, liver and spleen.
Treatment for ALL includes chemotherapy, radiation and/or blood and marrow transplantation. (information from childrenscancer.org)
ABOUT TEAM IMPACT: Team IMPACT (Inspire, Motivate, and Play Against Challenges Together) improves the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team. They do this by matching courageous kids with local college athletic teams. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto the team and become an official member of that team from signing day through graduation. The child joins the athletic team and the student-athletes join the child's support team. The child gains great strength, comradery and support and the student-athletes are taught lessons about courage, resiliency and life perspective that they can't learn in a classroom. Through a structured relationship management methodology, Team IMPACT establishes and cultivates these relationships to ensure a successful experience for the families and teams involved.
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ABOUT CAL STATE FULLERTON BASEBALL: Cal State Fullerton is a perennial college baseball powerhouse dating back to its first NCAA Div. I season in 1975. The program has won four national championships in four different decades and has advanced to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., 17 times. The Titans, led by 6th-year Head Coach Rick Vanderhook, won their 29th conference title in 2016, making it their second league championship in a row, their fifth in the last six years, and their 12th in 17 seasons since 2000. Last year marked the program's 38th overall postseason appearance and saw its remarkable string of 25 consecutive entries into the NCAA tournament extended.
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Twitter: @fullertontitans and @baseballtitans
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Official Hashtags: #tusksup and #gameon