5 years in the past, veteran large leaguer Nick Hundley visited Kids’s Hospital of Wisconsin and met a boy named Zach Sprader. Hundley, then with the San Diego Padres, sought to offer the younger baseball fan a raise throughout his combat in opposition to leukemia. Little did Hundley know a long-lasting friendship with a household would come of it.
A few weeks after his charitable go to with Athletes for Hope, Hundley was traded to Baltimore. Two weeks after that, he returned to Milwaukee with the Orioles for a collection in opposition to the Brewers, and that gave him an opportunity to go to the teenager once more. Hundley vowed to remain in contact with the household, which noticed Hundley play in Baltimore later that season.
“I took him round, frolicked within the clubhouse,” Hundley mentioned. “It was superior.”
“The 2 of them turned quick associates,” Zach’s mom, Lisa Kukec, recalled Monday on the Oakland Coliseum. “We stayed related, and after we have been on Zach’s Make-A-Want to the East Coast, we have been capable of see Nick at Camden Yards. Nick and Zach stayed related, and we might join with him when his staff got here to Milwaukee to play.”
Zach died simply greater than a 12 months after that preliminary assembly, in October 2015 at age 14.
Nonetheless, Hundley stored his phrase with the grateful household — Lisa, Zach’s father Chris and youthful sister, Ariana, who put on matching orange “Workforce Zach” shirts together with his jersey No. 24 on again for the previous shortstop and catcher. On a go to to Oakland with hopes of seeing Hundley — now a catcher with the A’s — they have been delighted to see No. 24 painted on the grass for Corridor of Famer Rickey Henderson Discipline, only one extra becoming second of this journey for Zach.
Earlier than he died, Zach visited seven ballparks. The household is on a quest to see all 30 main league venues in his honor. Ariana, who’s 12 and will probably be a seventh-grader, carries a leather-bound passport booklet that she will get stamped at every cease to maintain observe of the stadiums.
On Sunday, the household crossed No. 12 from the listing, watching the Brewers play the Giants in in San Francisco. Monday on the Coliseum marked No. 13, and so they stood behind the cage for A’s and Orioles batting observe due to subject passes offered by Hundley. They are going to be at Petco Park in San Diego on Wednesday, then Dodger Stadium on Friday.
“The Angels have been out of city, so we’ll have to come back again,” Chris Kukec mentioned.
On Monday, A’s President Dave Kaval stopped to say hi there and promised to assist with any hiccups buying tickets throughout their visits. Simply so occurs that Kaval hit all 30 ballparks in 38 days after graduating from Stanford, driving 1,500 miles.
Hundley wasn’t round for Monday’s go to. He left the Coliseum early after getting therapy as he rehabs from a again harm.
He retains in common contact with the household, although. He had no concept that spring day in 2014 he would make a long-lasting affect and friendships. Hundley and Zach took photos collectively, and the teenager signed his baseball card for the massive leaguer.
“It is a kind of issues the place you are going into a very onerous scenario and also you’re simply making an attempt to take their thoughts off it for two minutes, or 10 minutes,” mentioned the 35-year-old Hundley, in his first season with the A’s and 12th within the majors. “Or they get to know you and take into consideration the sport and take into consideration one thing apart from being sick and being within the hospital on a regular basis. Zach was an enormous baseball fan and I used to be actually lucky to be there to fulfill him. Realizing him, I really feel like I get extra out of it than he did simply seeing his battle. … Simply quite a lot of good recollections.”
The Kukecs dwell exterior Milwaukee, in order Lisa explains, “We’re basically Brewers followers, however we’re Nick Hundley followers.” Each time he is on the town, Hundley visits Lisa at Kids’s Hospital, the place she now works. “Simply a kind of cool issues,” Hundley mentioned.
Oh, the household feels the identical manner, after which some.
“Since Zach handed away, now we have continued to keep up a correspondence with Nick and proceed to finish Zach’s want of touring each stadium,” Lisa mentioned. “Nick has a coronary heart of gold and really touched Zach’s life, in addition to ours.”