Wedged between two teammates in the dugout, Nate Stevens sheepishly peered toward the Regions Field scoreboard. As his name and picture flashed on the screen, the 8-year-old’s apprehensions melted into a big grin.
Welcome to the big leagues.
Thanks to Make-A-Wish, the Birmingham Barons and Regions Bank, Nate Stevens became a Birmingham Baron for a day.
With family and friends accompanying him, he received a hero’s welcome from onlookers as he arrived in the Barons’ clubhouse, where he was shown to his personalized locker and given a chance to slip on his brand-new jersey, just like the one the Barons wear on game days.
He took grounders from members of the Homewood High baseball team and, with his youth league all-star teammates from Moundville joining him, took hearty swings in the batting cage – from both sides of the plate, of course.
Since being diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012, young Nate has spent days overlooking Regions Field from the expansive family wing of nearby Children’s of Alabama, towering above Birmingham’s Double-A ballpark just a few blocks away, and dreaming of being a ballplayer.
Thanks to Make-A-Wish’s Alabama chapter, the Birmingham Barons and Regions Bank, the youth transitioned from spectator and fan to bona fide Baron for a day.
“This is a big day for him,” said Mitch Stevens, his father. “He doesn’t fuss or complain. He just goes along. So to know there are people coming together and making sure you’re not alone is a big deal to all of us. He’ll never forget this.”
The Barons opened up their ballpark to the Stevens family and their friends from Moundville, south of Tuscaloosa and just over an hour from Birmingham. A tour of the facility even included a catered lunch.
The University of Alabama also contributed, with a personal invitation from Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban to Nate’s family to attend a football practice before Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.
Regions Bank underwrote the expenses, as well as an upcoming Nickelodeon family cruise for Nate, his mother and father and two siblings. The cruise departs later this month. Nate receives his final chemo injection the Friday prior to departure and takes his final pill on the cruise.
“This wish has been 10 months in the making,” explained Pam Jones, CEO and President of the Alabama Chapter of Make-A-Wish. “I’m telling you, I have the best job in the world because I feel like the fairy godmother by granting these wishes.”
Regions’ Joy Parker organized the Regions Field event, arranging the venue, handling logistics and bringing volunteers together to make Nate’s day special.
“I have a wonderful job,” said Parker, Director of Special Projects for Regions in North Central Alabama.
“It’s not every day that you can make a little boy’s dream come true. I have a son that is the same age, and it was an honor to help coordinate the event for Nate and his family. It’s a wonderful day when you give back to the community and help make a difference.”
Added Jones, “We’re here to serve the children of Alabama, and we know the impact Make-A-Wish has is real. We couldn’t do this without the community, without volunteers and especially without companies like Regions’ support and involvement.”