Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Recovering Ballplayer Rejoins Team

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Recovering Ballplayer Rejoins Team

Article excerpt

Dressed in her blue and white Lady Comets softball uniform with the big No. 7 on the back, Hackensack High School senior Erin Kelly looked just as ready as any of her teammates to play ball in the final game of the season against the Bergen Tech Knights on Monday afternoon.

Erin was not there to play, however.

After two years of fighting back from an illness that initially paralyzed her from the waist down and ultimately left her with a balance problem, she said she considered herself lucky to be able to walk the base paths, to feel the dirt crunching under her shoes one last time, as she joined her teammates in the senior ceremony before graduating.

The team's catcher, Cassidy Kadonaga, said, "I refuse to cry," as moisture welled up in her eyes.

Loud applause erupted from both sides as Erin, who used to play third base, started her walk from home plate toward first, arm in arm with Cassidy, who accompanied her to make sure she could stay upright.

By the time they rounded first on the way to second, Erin seemed sure enough on her feet to walk on her own, and the two 18-year-old friends laughed and shoved each other in good-natured horseplay, finally slapping at the outstretched hands of teammates as they walked from third to home, where bouquets of flowers and hugs awaited.

Over on the Knights side of the field, along the first base line, cheering opponents wore purple headbands and socks, because that's what Erin said her favorite color was.

"It didn't used to be my favorite color," Erin confided, "but when I first went into the hospital and I was really out of it, someone asked me my favorite color and I looked at the walls and they were purple, so I said 'purple.' "

Right on cue, her mother, Patricia Kelly, showed up to cheer her daughter's senior walk around the base paths, wearing a purple jacket. …

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