4-Year-Old with Brain Cancer Invited onto Baseball Field To Hit Home Run


Sports are usually a time of competition with the goal of blowing your opponent out of the water with a high scoring game. But two teams pushed past that game day mindset in order to make a boy’s dreams come true.

The University of New Mexico Lobos and the Air Force Academy Falcons were getting ready to face off in a baseball game on May 12, 2018, in Colorado Springs.

The two teams decided to honor Lio Ortega, a 4-year-old boy suffering from medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

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Lio’s father, Manny Ortego, played for Nex Mexico’s coach, Ray Birmingham, while Manny was in community college and the two have kept in touch.

Birmingham talked to the Air Force coach, Mike Kazlausky, about giving little Lio a baseball experience that he would never forget.

Kazlausky had lost his sister to the same strain of brain cancer and was happy to help a little boy who was suffering from the disease.

Lio first got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and received a signed baseball. But the thrill of the game was captured in a video that has since been widely circulated.

The video shows the 4-year-old hitting a baseball off a tee, and then dashing around the bases as the teams cheered for him.

He received a hero’s welcome once he got to home plate as he was lifted into the air and the young men chanted, “Lio! Lio! Lio!”

“The hardest thing for us is … how do we maximize his time to give him great experiences? This was one of those (experiences) because he loves baseball,” Manny said. “He plays on a little league team, he loves the big kids, he loves the college kids. He wants to be one of them.”

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The occasion was arranged by the two baseball teams, and about 100 people were in attendance for the 4-year-old’s home run.

“Everybody was crying, everybody was laughing,” he added. “It was just overwhelming. (Lio) had a great time and as you could see, it was a hoot. When he gets to do things like this, it makes him happy because he’s with his family.”

This will certainly be a day Lio will never forget! Shout out to these college students who wanted to make his dreams come true.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith