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All-star inspires through adversity

June 5, 2012

On Sunday, Borger’s Chayse Tracy received the Eric Alvarez Memorial Award at the GWTBCA All-Star games in Lubbock. The Eric Alvarez Memorial Award was named after the former Rotan coach who was killed in a car accident in 2005. The Eric Alvarez Player of the Year award is given to a young man in the greater West Texas area that exhibits: character, hard work, determination, and a passion for the game of baseball.

**Reprinted courtesy of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Originally ran on Monday, June 4th
WOODROW — The final play of the Greater West Texas Baseball Coaches Association Class 3A-4A all-star game, played Sunday at Cooper, certainly won’t be stored among baseball’s greatest highlights.
A simple putout at first base to end a lopsided exhibition game isn’t the sort of sequence that will have Cooperstown calling to collect the details. But then you discover the story of the player who grasped that final, seemingly meaningless, out in his glove, and the play becomes pretty incredible after all.
Chayse Tracy, who last month completed his senior season at Borger, wasn’t supposed to be here. Not after he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at age 7, a rare cancer that nearly cost him his life.
“When they found the tumor, it was the size of a golf ball,” Tracy’s aunt, Shelley Tracy-Wise said, “and it had already metastasized in his lungs. Usually, once you’ve metastasized, you have no hope.”
But with the help of doctors, Tracy fought, using the strength that made him a national youth champion wrestler as a 7-year-old to battle through nine months of constant chemotherapy. His aunt said Tracy still played all his little league games that year. He lost his hair, so teammates shaved their heads in support.
Tracy kept fighting and the chemo took. Within a year, Tracy was free of cancer.
“That he’s even here is amazing,” his aunt said.
But recovery came at a cost. Tracy, to that point a right-handed ballplayer, had to have his right shoulderblade removed. Contact sports were ruled out of his future. He was told baseball would be the only sport he could play.
If he was going to play baseball, though, Tracy decided he would have to pitch, have to contribute in the biggest way the game would allow. That meant learning to throw left-handed.
“It was real hard and it took a long time,” Tracy said. “Every day in the backyard, I’d just be throwing as hard as I could. Keep throwing left-handed. Not even catching, just throwing left-handed as hard as I could until I got there.”
Because of the limited mobility in his right arm, Tracy was forced to catch left-handed, too. On the mound and in the field, he wears a glove on his left hand. Once he makes a catch, he slides his glove over to his right hand and makes the next throw with the left.
Tracy spent hours with his father watching videos of former major leaguer Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand but won 87 big league games in 10 seasons and threw a no-hitter in 1993.
“Every time they were in the hospital they watched (Abbott’s) videos,” Tracy-Wise said.
By the time he made it to high school, Tracy had become an effective left-handed pitcher. This season he was named to the District 1-3A first team for his work on the mound. Despite limited range with his swing, he was also the team’s best hitter.
“Every time he was on the field,” Borger coach Steve Ribera said, “I thought he was a walking miracle. He didn’t just play — he excelled.”
“He’s freakin’ incredible,” teammate Max Lusk added. “He’s a good leader and just always positive with everything.”
Tracy’s positive outlook was put to the test in March, when his father, Charles Tracy — who had helped him discover new life within the game of baseball — passed away.
Tracy found himself using the game to grieve. He leaned on his Borger teammates, who served as honorary pallbearers at the funeral service, donning their Bulldog uniforms.
“He said, ‘I can’t do this without them,’” Tracy-Wise recalled. “They all came and sat in the front two rows. They asked if they should dress up. He said, ‘No, my dad would want you in your uniforms.’”
In his final home game, Tracy found one more way to honor his father, who was a member of the Borger baseball booster club. Before the game, Tracy searched out a freshman teammate with the No. 15 jersey, the number his father always worn, and offered a trade for his own No. 7 threads.
“Our whole family was there,” Tracy-Wise said, “and to see him standing out there with his dad’s number, it was just really cool.”
For his determination and ability to inspire others, the GWTBCA honored Tracy on Sunday with the Eric Alvarez Memorial Award, named after the former Rotan coach who was killed in a car accident in 2005.
“I couldn’t think of anyone better (than Tracy),” Ribera said. “He exemplifies that every day. It’s one thing when a kid overcomes things like this and is a part of the team and gets by, but Chayse was so much more than that.”
Tracy said he would like to play baseball in college, though he isn’t sure where. He may walk on at a small-college program, just as long as he can stay close to the game that has helped him battle through so much.
“It’s been hard to get here, he said, “but with hard work you can get wherever you want.”

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