Winona State University’s newest baseball player knows the value of perseverance, especially when things get tough.

Fourteen-year-old Hunter Krusmark, from Lake City, Minn., will officially join the Warrior baseball team for the 2017 baseball season on Thursday, Feb. 23. A game jersey with his last name on it will be presented as part of the signing ceremony as well as a WSU baseball cap to help him look the part.

Krusmark, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2014, will join WSU’s team as part of Team IMPACT, an organization that connects children with chronic illnesses to local collegiate athletic teams to spread the power of team.

According to Associate Athletic Director Myranda Nash, the WSU Athletics Department joined Team IMPACT because of the benefit seen with other programs and athletic teams.

“We see this partnership with Team IMPACT as an honor to have,” Nash said. “We feel lucky that Hunter and his family make the commitment to drive to Winona for practices and games and hope to make this experience worth it for them and our local community.”

Moreover, Nash said Hunter’s presence on the team will be humbling for the student-athletes. 

“Having Hunter a part of our baseball team will give our student-athletes a solid indicator of adversity and overcoming situations that aren’t fair or easy to navigate in life,” Nash said. “Sometimes we get caught up in the stresses of season. I think Hunter and his family will give our student-athletes hope, inspiration and joy. I believe Hunter will leave an impression of all three on our Warrior family.”

Baseball student-athlete Michael Hommes said just meeting Krusmark made an immediate impression on him and his fellow teammates. They’ve already accepted him as one of their own and are planning different ways to engage with him, both on and off the field.

“I expected a sick kid, but he just had a big smile on his face,” Hommes recalled after his first meeting with Krusmark.

Head Coach Kyle Poock said Krusmark is an inspiration for the team.

“He gives our guys a chance to see someone who struggles every day,” Poock said. “They’re fortunate to have that example.”

Krusmark is able to join in the team’s practices, playing catch, throwing and even participating in batting practices, Poock said. The team also hopes Krusmark will be able to attend some home and away games this season, including a March 10 game at U.S. Bank Stadium when he would be able to ride the bus up with the team and even sit in the dugout.

The team hopes to return the favor and take a day trip to see Krusmark play in his own baseball league this spring, so the whole team can show up to support him and help cheer him on.

Since its inception in 2011, Team IMPACT has matched more than 1,100 children to over 450 colleges and universities throughout the country. The child gains great strength, camaraderie and support, and the student athletes are taught lessons about courage, resiliency and life perspective that they can’t learn in a classroom.

The Warriors’ first home game of the 2017 season will take place Saturday, March 18, against University of Minnesota-Crookston.

For more information, contact Myranda Nash at mnash@winona.edu.

 

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Samantha Stetzer

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