Hawks Baseball Team Welcomes 11-Year-Old Recruit for “Draft Day”
This week, thousands of high school athletes signed letters of intent with colleges and universities, a reward for years of hard work and practice.
One special Rockhurst University recruit had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, signing his letter of intent in a draft day ceremony on Friday before a packed news conference in the University’s Convocation Center.
Eleven-year-old Tyler Niemeyer from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was officially welcomed to the Rockhurst University Hawks baseball team as they prepared for an afternoon double-header against the University of Missouri-St. Louis Tritons, where Tyler would throw the first pitch.
“This is a big weekend, and I think you’re going to add a real spark,” head coach Gary Burns said in introducing Tyler. “I think you’re going to see the Hawks play extra-special today with you with them.”
Shortly after birth, Niemeyer was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a chronic condition that causes a buildup of mucus in the lungs and digestive tract. Tyler doesn’t let that stop him from playing baseball — he’s a second baseman and a command-first pitcher with a plus four-seam fastball — alongside his cystic fibrosis free twin brother, Adam. But it does mean he’s at risk for lung infections and receives ongoing medical care such as breathing treatments and nutritional supplements to help him maintain weight.
Tyler and his family were connected to the Hawks through Team IMPACT, an organization that seeks to improve quality of life for young people with life-threatening or chronic illnesses by pairing them with a collegiate athletics team. Burns commended the support that Tyler had behind him that led him to his big day.
“Any good player needs the great support on not only his teammates, but the support of his family too,” he said. “I think the reason that Tyler is with us today, having had such a successful career to this point, is that support he’s gotten from his family.”
Team leaders have tried to take their new teammate under their wing, said Corbin Hare, a senior outfielder.
“We’re really super excited to have him here and to be able to spend some time with him,” he said.
Tyler said he was happy to have the opportunity to be in the dugout, take up some throwing practice before games, and cheer on his teammates. Tyler’s mom, Melissa, said he’d been looking forward to Friday’s draft day for some time.
“He woke up this morning and was just so excited to come out here today,” she said.