PORTLAND — Seven-year-old Nate Gallant of Mexico took time out from first grade to take a few swings at Hadlock Field and high-five members of the Portland Sea Dogs pitching staff Wednesday afternoon.
Gallant and his family traveled to Portland to promote the 19th Strike Out Cancer in Kids program, the signature charity of the Sea Dogs, to benefit the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.
Each year, the team designates a “Slugger’s Kid” to serve as the face of the program. Gallant was 5 when he received his diagnosis of ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) in the winter of 2011. He is currently in the maintenance phase of treatment, which is expected to last until March 2015.
“We don’t let this slow him down at all,” said his mother, Heather, who said Nate enjoys skiing, basketball, soccer and is currently playing on a baseball team, one of three coached by his father, Kevin.
Four Gallants – including older sister, Gabby, who is 9 – took a turn in a batting cage set up at home plate at Hadlock. The Sea Dogs made a donation of $1,195 for their hits, along with those of a dozen other supporters and members of the local media.
Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper announced that the Sea Dogs pitching staff is making an additional $1,000 donation to the cause, which has provided more than $4 million for cancer treatment and research in Maine since its inception in 1995.
In addition to outright donations, pledges are sought for each strikeout registered by a Sea Dogs pitcher. Portland’s staff entered Wednesday’s action with a league-leading 287 strikeouts.
“These young men that are standing behind me right now,” said Kipper, gesturing to the 12-man staff dressed in blue jeans and their white Sea Dogs game jerseys and standing along the first-base line, “have an incredible opportunity to use their exceptional skill, and that skill is the ability to throw a baseball really well, to impact the human life in a community.”
Sixteen of the 19 Slugger’s Kids continue to thrive and many are no longer in treatment.