The Youngstown State baseball program announced the addition of a special new teammate on Tuesday as Jacob Sypert, a sixth grader at Roosevelt Elementary in McDonald, became a member of the program.
Sypert and the YSU Baseball team have been partnered together as part of the Team IMPACT program, which is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of being part of a team. Core to their model is harnessing the power of teamwork by matching courageous kids with college athletic teams. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto local college athletic teams and, to the greatest extent possible, become an official member of the team for the duration of their treatment and beyond.
Sypert is a 12-year-old who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was 4. He completed 3.5 years of chemotherapy and was deemed cancer free for 15 months. His cancer returned in November 2012, and he had a bone marrow transplant three months later. He is cancer free now and continues to attend physical therapy to improve his leg and hip muscles.
YSU head baseball coach Steve Gillispie and team advocates Gerrad Rohan and Billy Salem were all in attendance at a press conference Tuesday announcing Sypert as the newest member of the program. After the press conference, Sypert was greeted by the full team and shown his personal locker in the team locker room.
"This is one of the great benefits of being involved with college athletics," Gillispie said. "It's really important and special for our guys to be around the youth of the Mahoning Valley, and especially with somebody like Jacob who has faced some adversity. There is a great message and a great story, and our guys can learn a lot from Jacob and realize how blessed they are to not have to go through some of the things people in the world have to face."
"You can get caught up in the successes and failures of playing baseball, and the failures can get heavy. I think our interactions with Jacob keeps things in perspective."
Gillispie first met the Sypert family at YSU's NCAA Selection Show Watch Party in 2014 when Sypert was partnered with the baseball team at the University of Akron. Akron dropped its baseball program last summer, and Rohan and Salem, both transfers from Akron, were instrumental in partnering Sypert with YSU. The Penguins all wear wrist bands that read "Team Jacob: Never Give Up".
"Jacob's probably taught me more about strength and perseverance than any coach or trainer I've ever had," Rohan said.
"We might think we're having a bad day, but we haven't been through half of what Jacob has," Salem added. "He's our hero, and we're so happy have him. He's like a brother to us. Hanging out with him is a blast."
The Youngstown State women's tennis program also has a partnership with Team IMPACT. Their IMPACT teammate is 10-year-old Isabella Hartman from Youngstown.
NAME: Jacob Sypert
SCHOOL: Sixth Grade at Roosevelt Elementary (McDonald)
FAVORITE NUMBER: 13
FAVORITE COLOR: Blue
FAVORITE FOODS: Pizza, ice cream, candy, Red Lobster
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Rick and Morty
FAVORITE MOVIE: Dead Pool
PET: Dog named Dasher