The biggest hit of the baseball season thus far was not hit by Derek Jeter or Manny Ramirz, no by Ken Griffey Jr. Instead, the biggest hit of the year so far was hit on April 11 by a high school senior out of Freedom, Pennsylvania by the name of John Challis.
The signifance of this?
John Challis was diagnosed with liver cancer in June of 2006 and only had no more than five months to live.
"Doc says it could be two months, could be two years," Challis says.
The kid who originally quit baseball when he was 13 because he kept getting beaned was the smallest cornerback in his Junior Varsity football league at 108 pounds.
Chalis worked hard in the weight room during the spring of his junior year, but didn't get any bigger and began to slowly lose his appetite, which contradicted Challis' passion for food.
Then came that dreadful day on June 23, 2006... it was then he was diagnosed with liver cancer, more grim than the original idea that he had Crohn's disease. Nobody told him that he shouldn't live more than five more months from the diagnosis.
At a recent walk-a-thon held by Freedom High School to help Challis raise money for one last family summer trip, Challis hoped for 100 people. He got 600, let alone 600 in a downpour. Coincidentally enough, as he went up to the microphone to speak, the rain stop and the sun poked through the rainclouds.
Safe to say that he has everyone's full support.
Although the caner is beginning to takeover his lungs, Challis still played with his football team this past fall, getting his last hit against Hickory where he played one play on kickoff and two at wide reciever.
During the winter, he worked hard in the batting cages with the baseball team, in hopes of overcoming his fear of the ball and getting his first varsity hit.
Against Aliquippa on that April afternoon during the third inning, Challis' hard work finally paid off as he hit a line drive between first and second base. After struggling to get to the bag, he yelled out "I did it!" The game stopped with everyone, including the opposing pitcher congratulating Challis.
"Everybody was in shock when he hit the ball," says Shawn Lehocky, a right fielder who wears a red wristband with Challis' No. 11 to school.
"It was a legit hit," Freedom left fielder Michael Tibolet says. "It's something I'll never forget."
Perseverance is something that Challis obvously doesn't lack, as shown in the playoff- deciding game for Freedom as they trailed New Brighton 7-1 with three outs until elimination on. The Freedom Bulldogs lost that game, and although Challis will now never see a playoff game, he thanked his teammates for treating them as an equal.
Challis spent numerous nights wondering why he had to be sick. But now, he knows.
"I believe this, that God got me sick because he knew I was strong enough to handle the situation," he says. "He's using me as an example of his good works. What I mean by that is that people are seeing me as an inspiration."