Hoping to find ways to ease Owen’s difficulties, the Mahans were introduced to Team IMPACT, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that pairs children suffering from significant ailments with collegiate teams. The mission is two-fold — to have the kids gain strength and confidence through the camaraderie, and to teach the athletes about courage and life perspective.
Team IMPACT’s in-depth pairing process included extensive interviews to find an ideal match. Based on the results, they knocked it out of the park in choosing the UIndy baseball program.
“He’s much more outgoing now because of it,” Susan Mahan said. “He looks so forward to going and meeting up with the team. He talks about his uniform all the time and asks us to help him throw some balls.”
Last Sunday, Owen was on-hand in his customized Rawlings threads for UIndy’s doubleheader sweep of Lewis. The day included riding in a golf cart with Vaught, dragging the infield, throwing out the first pitch and sitting on the lap of freshman pitcher Jordan Tackett to man the radar gun.
Tackett talked about it on “Owen’s Blog,” a collection of player posts on the team’s website.
“I felt as if this game served as some special bonding time between Owen and myself,” Tackett said. “By the end of that special day, I felt as if I was his big brother, and I really appreciate the time I was able to spend with him. He’s an incredibly strong young man, and I can only hope to be as courageous as him as I go on with my life.”
Those aren’t just words. Vaught said the genuineness and caring his players display around Owen is striking.
“I’m seeing something in these young men that there’s no way we would’ve seen if we didn’t have this experience,” Vaught said. “You know the little guy’s going through pain, but he’s full of life and nothing bothers him. When he’s around our guys, he lifts everybody. There aren’t words to describe how he makes me feel when I’m around him.”