Fullerton, Calif. – Eight-year-old Coben Swanson officially joined the Cal State Fullerton baseball team on Monday evening after signing his Letter of Commitment during a press conference held at Goodwin Field.
With the entire 2016-17 Titan baseball team and a large student-athlete contingent in attendance, the Titans also pledged to join Coben in his fight against Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (ALL).
"We pride ourselves on the fight that we have here (at Cal State Fullerton), and to have Coben, who is our youngest person to ever sign a National Letter of Commitment, show the fight that he has, is an example for all of us in Titan Athletics," said Director of Athletics Jim Donovan.
"Tonight is a very special night for us. As a whole department. Not just the baseball team," said sixth year Head Coach Rick Vanderhook, sitting next to Coben, Coben's mother, Brittany, and current Titan pitcher John Gavin.
"Tonight, we're going to sign an 8 year old. Coben, that means I have to coach all the way until 2027. I don't know that I'm going to last that long coaching. But I will be here when you get here in 2027 to play. Sound good to you?"
Coben agreed and upon signing the document, Coach Vanderhook presented the newest Titan with his very own pinstriped jersey with his favorite number 2 on the back. In addition to the jersey, Coben received special personalized messages from former Titans, Phil Nevin, Justin Turner, Michael Lorenzen and Kurt Suzuki that played on the Goodwin Field video board.
"This has been a blessed pairing for the both of us, and we're super fortunate," said Brittany about the Titans joining the Swanson family.
"Not only is Coben joining the Titans, but the Titans have already joined our family. It is more than teams crossing on the field, these guys are really joining our family."
A number of Titans have visited the Swansons at their home in Yorba Linda, just to hang out and spend time with Coben and his little sister, Saffryn. Brittany, Saffryn, Coben and his father, Jon, have made their way way out to a couple of Titan practices so far.
The two families teamed up together with the help of Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto college athletic teams, local to where they live, and to the greatest extent possible, become a member of the team from Signing Day through to Graduation.
Having been at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) since his diagnosis, the Swansons have gotten to know a lot of other kids being treated and heard about Team IMPACT though one of Coben's friends, who was also in attendance.
"We've seen the impact it has made on them being a part of Team IMPACT and their ability to regain motivation, to be active, to be out on the field with whatever sport they are joined up with," said Coben's mother.
"To see him come out on this field and see these guys, and be motivated… the very first time he walked through those gates, he was greeted by hi-fives the whole way down. The first thing he said was, 'I want to run bases' – this coming from a kid that has been laying in bed for almost an entire year.
"For me, just to see the warmth and excitement has been so encouraging."
Coben is not only fighting the leukemia. A rare complication has caused him to have to have a large portion of his skull removed to alleviate pressure on his brain. He has been waiting to be healthy enough to have it repaired, and it looks like that time has come. Should Coben remain healthy enough through Wednesday, he will go into surgery to have his skull repaired this Thursday (Oct. 13).
"This is something bigger than what we're doing," said Gavin. "We're so fortunate just to be healthy to play our sport and just to be where we are.
"Coben is such a great kid and always has a smile on his face and he's a real inspiration to all of us."
If you would like to help the Swanson family, a GoFundMe.com page has been set up for them at gofundme.com/b4jzggkc. As of today, over $22,000 has been raised of their $52,000 goal.