With a police escort, the state champion Lincoln Little Leaguers departed Thursday for Bristol, Conn., to compete for the New England championship and a spot in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
That might be enough for most teams, but not these guys. They are also taking a swing at defeating cancer.
"When these kids saw something life-altering they really opened up," assistant coach Marty Gaughan said.
What the kids saw was the plight of Cory Burke, a player none of them have ever met from Bristol. An all-star, Cory is sitting this season out while battling a rare bone disease, Ewing's sarcoma.
"We're not just playing for him, we're playing for other kids with cancer, too. We're playing for other kids that can't play," Lincoln player Patrick Gribbin said.
Patrick came up with the idea of honoring Cory after hearing his story during the state tournament. He had shirts made that the team will wear with Cory's name and number adorning the back.
Cory's one of them now, and they want to take him along for the ride.
"He just moved us with the speech and we just remember that," Lincoln player Zarek Larisa said.
As much as the players want to pay tribute to Cory, they are also using it as a motivating factor. With Cory in their hearts, they promise to give 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time.
"If somebody will say, like, 'Oh, I'm tired,' someone will bring up, like, 'Well, Cory's tired too but he wants to play," Gribbin said.
"That's probably my proudest moment so far was when Patrick came up to me after the state championship game," Lincoln manager Matt Netto said, "and told me he had a thought and that he wanted to do something for Cory Burke."
And if you want to do something for Cory, visit his foundation's website, CoryWontFightAlone.com.
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