RICHMOND - Grayson Dutton loves baseball. His father Michael isn't sure if he chose the sport or the sport chose him. In either event, his spirits are unquestionably higher when he's around the game.
"Baseball is definitely his life" Grayson's father Michael said. "He loves it."
Grayson's spirits can use all the lifts they can get. He was diagnosed at the age of 9 months with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of muscle cancer. He has undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, treatments that continue today because of a relapse in the fall of 2014. Now 4, his father says he continues to show remarkable strength and courage.
The VCU Rams are making a tradition out of making kids with this kind of adversity a big part of their athletic program. On Monday, head baseball coach Sean Stiffler signed Grayson to an honorary National Letter of Intent, making him one of the youngest Rams in history. Grayson is already a regular at Rams and Flying Squirrels games which takes his mind off his fight with cancer.
"If we can bring that type of peace of mind to them...then we certainly gonna do our best to and we're just very fortunate to be able to get him out as much this year as we have been able to" Stiffler said.
"What did it mean?" said Michael Dutton in response to a reporter's question. "One word: priceless. It's not every day that this happens and we took it in and rolled with it. They've been with us since day one once they found out and since then...we've been aboard...it meant a lot."
The Rams have a unique perspective in dealing with this type of situation. Former coach Paul Keyes lost his battle with cancer back in the fall of 2012, and some of his final signees are still with the VCU program.
"Our senior class is the last class that played for Coach Keyes" Stiffler said. "They remember going through things like this and obviously and have a special place in their heart for any family that is going through a situation like this."