When 5-year old Andy Fass attended his first baseball game, it was hard to imagine it would change his life. But a chance meeting with legendary Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte gave Fass the desire to try a game he thought he would never play.
Everything began when Andy's 7-year old sister, Katie, was honored with an academic award at a Trenton Thunder game on April 25. The family was given four front row seats next to the Thunder's bullpen.
Andy Fass's first baseball game offered him a chance to view himself and the world in a new light. Fass has been diagnosed with oculocutaneous albinism, which affects nearly 40,000 people around the world. This genetic condition has left him legally blind and without pigment in his skin, forcing him to stay out of the sun from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and wear sunglasses when he ventures outside.
“It's challenging to deal with Andy's low vision,” says his mother, Jill, who along with her husband Marc, reach out to families with newborns coping with albinism on behalf of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH). Although Andy has always enjoyed being around people and staying active, baseball was intimidating to him at first due to all the moving objects.
That changed the day he went to his first game.
Pettitte was making a rare minor league start in Trenton to get in shape before his 2012 major league debut. At the end of his warmup prior to the game, Pettitte casually gave Fass the baseball he had been using.
The next day, a picture of the moment was published in the Trenton Times, encouraging the family's gymnastics teacher to give them tickets for the Yankees-Mariners game in the Bronx on May 13.
Since the attention he received from the photo and, more importantly, his encounter with Pettitte, Andy Fass is looking forward to getting on the field and playing baseball.
“Andy Pettitte has no clue what an impact he had with my little boy,” said Jill. “It's people like that who show that one simple random act of kindness can change the world.”
Now in its fourth year, the New York Yankees' HOPE Week recognizes individuals and organizations whose acts of goodwill provide hope and encouragement to the community. Honorees are surprised by Yankee players and staff, and attend the night's game as guests of the team.
The Corporation for National and Community Service partners with the New York Yankees to present each HOPE Week honoree with the President's Volunteer Service Award. The Yankees and CNCS hope the honorees' stories send the message that everyone can serve to make their community a better place.
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