May 28, 2009


Cavaliers Provide Special Family Memories

By Sean Ryan


Shortly after Virginia edged Florida State to claim its second ACC baseball championship, some of the Cavaliers spotted one of their biggest fans in the crowd.

The players summoned 12-year-old Drew Carrico onto the Durham Athletic Park field to join in their celebration. Carrico rubbed shoulders with some of his heroes and posed for pictures holding the championship trophy with senior Andrew Carraway (left, with Drew), senior catcher Will Campbell, freshman Shane Halley and coach Brian O’Connor.


“In our family, the U.Va. baseball team was champions long before their great win over Florida State,” said John Carrico, Drew’s father.


The Carricos, who live in the Richmond, Va., suburb of Midlothian, have been supporting the Cavaliers for a long time. John Carrico is a Virginia graduate, as his wife Sheri. Drew Carrico had served as a bat boy for a few games each of the past two seasons.


Late last year, the family was thrown a couple of curve balls.


Tyler Carrico, Drew’s 15-year-old brother, had spinal fusion surgery to repair a fractured spine as a result of a football injury. After several days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and another week in the hospital, a staph infection developed at the 20-inch incision site. He spent more time in the hospital and had a long-term IV line inserted into his heart. Tyler missed four months of school and is in his fourth month of physical therapy.


In between Tyler Carrico’s procedures, Drew Carrico, who was 11 at the time, woke up the morning before Thanksgiving with a pain in his chest. An X-ray revealed a massive tumor in his chest. A softball-sized tumor was taken from Drew’s tiny chest cavity in a seven-hour surgery – a surgery where a robotic non-invasive surgery spared the young boy from having to undergo an open-heart type surgery.


“Our prayers were answered when a week later, the biopsy showed the tumor to be benign,” said John Carrico, the president of Ukrop’s Dress Express, a corporate apparel, uniform and promotional services firm. “Today, Drew is fully recovered with a 1 in 20,000 chance of the tumor ever surfacing again.”


In December, Virginia’s sports information office found out about Drew, the former bat boy, and sent a huge package of Cavaliers memorabilia: several signed Ryan Zimmerman (now of the Washington Nationals) items, a jersey autographed by the 2009 Cavaliers and a letter from O’Connor, who brought all his players in during exams to sign the jersey.


Spirits were improving for both Carrico boys, thanks in large part to the gifts. Later that month, Campbell, a catcher from Yorktown, Va., and other players contacted Drew to see if they could visit after winter break.


In January, Campbell, Carraway, Halley, Robert Morey, Tyler Cannon and Jeff Lorick came to “hang out.”


“Words cannot begin to express what that night meant to my sons,” John Carrico said. “Without a doubt, the thoughtfulness of their visit led to a faster recovery from both the physical and mental traumas of their surgeries.”


Fast forward five months, and the Cavaliers won four straight games to capture the ACC baseball title. The Carricos, decked out in Virginia T-shirts and dark blue Cavaliers caps, wouldn’t have missed it for the world.


“To travel to Durham last Sunday to watch the same young men that in January were eating pizza, playing Nerf hoop and overall lifting the spirits of my sons win the ACC baseball championship created a memory that will definitely last a lifetime for our boys and our family,” John Carrico said. “Our family will always be indebted to the thoughtfulness and warmth of the U.Va. baseball team that reached into the hearts of our sons to lift their spirits and speed their recovery.”


(photos provided by John Carrico)