Willow Kendricks, a 3-year-old Leeds girl, loves baseball and plays on one of the Leeds youth capball teams.
But “Willow the Warrior” is about to be benched for a while.
She is undergoing brain surgery Thursday – her second major surgery in her short life. Her first was open heart surgery at only a year old.
Friends who knew how much she loved baseball asked the Leeds High School baseball Coach Jake Wingo if the team could sign a photo for her and take it to the hospital, but Wingo jumped at the chance to do something special for her.
He invited her to join the team before the game for the National Anthem and throw out the first pitch.
“She happened to love the baseball that coach gave her so much that she didn’t want to let go of it to throw it,” said Victoria McCay, mother of a LHS baseball player.
After the pitch, Willow got to hang out with the team in the dugout during for part of the game and drink Sprite from a cup like the players used. The players shared French fries with her and wore “Willow the Warrior” bracelets during the game in her honor.
Willow’s mother, Jamie Bice-Kendricks, was so touched by that day that on Facebook, she said she cries every time she thinks about how special that day was for Willow, who has Noonan Syndrome, congenital heart defects, Chiari Malformation and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
“She has been through so much ever since I was pregnant with her,” she said in a post. “There were times we thought we would lose her. She has overcome so much and here she is standing strong on Leeds High School baseball field doing what she loves most in this world.”
Bice-Kendricks said this was one of many reasons why her family loves Leeds.
“I feel like one day she is going to ask me if the stitches on the inside of her chest look like baseball stitches,” she said in a post last week. “Next week my brave warrior takes on a new battle. I look for her to slay this dragon too, so she can get back to baseball.”
See more about Willow in this week’s print edition of the Leeds Tribune. Subscribe here.