Rhettec Galaska had no idea he would be the latest athlete to be offered a spot on East Carolina’s baseball roster.
Normally he wouldn’t have a spot. He’s 11 years old.
But Wednesday evening, ECU’s baseball team surprised Rhettec with a mock signing day and press conference, introducing him as the latest player to sign. He received his own No. 1 jersey with his last name on the back.
The event was held by both ECU and Team IMPACT, a non-profit based in Boston whose mission is to improve the quality of life of children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses.
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Rhettec, the youngest of three brothers, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when he was 8.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a blood cancer that includes all types of lymphoma, except Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Most with the cancer first get an enlarged lymph node on their neck, which is what Rhettec had.
For two-and-a-half years, Rhettec battled cancer. He spent many days in the hospital receiving treatment. He missed many days of schools.
“It was hard,” Rhettec said.
But he finished his last session of chemotherapy in June.
The ECU baseball team was looking for a community service project, when they came across Team IMPACT. They wanted to help out a child.
So Team IMPACT matched them up with Rhettec.
Rhettec had already met a few players prior to the surprise. And he watched a team practice. His parents told him he’d get to meet the whole team on Wednesday. But that’s not all that was happening.
They set up a surprise to have him sign a letter of intent.
Rhettec said he didn’t know what was going on until he walked through the doors into the press conference.
“It felt good,” he said with a smile on his face.
By signing the letter, Rhettec will spend at least two years with the team, attending games, batting practices and hanging with the players.
“It helps me, it helps our kids put things into perspective,” ECU baseball coach Cliff Godwin said. “When you’re having a bad day and you look at him, and you go well ‘he’s had a lot worse days than we have. And striking out making an error, giving up a homerun is not that bad anymore, because obviously he has fought for his life.”
Godwin said it was priceless to see Rhettec’s excitement.
“To come in and see his eyes light up and his smile, you can’t put a price tag on that,” Godwin said.