The Tournament That Should Have Never Been

The death of a loved one, especially a child, changes you. You are changed from the inside out, and the outside in. Once seemingly mundane, ordinary tasks become overwhelming and insurmountable. As my husband, David, put it "I sometimes create mountains that I cannot climb." Such is the case with organizing things for this website and this tournament. We know what needs done, but the doing is oh, so difficult. Working on this website left me sleepless and irritable and I did not even understand why. Every time I sat down at the computer to work on it, it was like opening a portal to the past. A door that we sometimes crack open and peer inside, but hardly ever walk through.

So after 5 years, we have the site up and running but it is not nearly finished. There is so much more of the story to tell. So much good to share and so many memories to bring to light. We ask for patience from you. Tasks that may seem simple enough, sometimes take every ounce of courage we can muster. When Dylan was sick, we learned to live with blinders on, to only look forward. We learned to live in the day, the hour, the minute, the second. We still live that way, it has it's benefits but it also has it's drawbacks. We want to remember the good times. We want to share his life with you. We want to celebrate the ways he touched this world and left it a better place than when he entered it. We want to walk back through that door and for you to come with us.

One thing that we have known needed to be completed was to tell the story of why we have this tournament. It is not solely about raising money for the DC8 Fund. It is so much more than that. It is about life and death and everything in between. It is about more than I could ever put into words so I have asked David to write this one - here it is:

The Dylan K. Crunick Memorial Tournament : The Tournament That Should Have Never Been.

In 2006 our son Dylan signed up to play baseball for the "Ports" Pee Wee baseball team in Bellefonte, Pa. I distinctly remember telling him, in front of his coaches, that it was up to him to prove to them that he deserved to play and that he needed to work hard to earn his playing time. DD took those words to task and became one the the best ball players our area had to offer.

When he was younger, there was a kid in the league, you know the one - 6'1" ,190 with a beard at the age of 12.....Phil Fenstermacker.......known only as Phil. When someone mentioned the name "Phil", you knew exactly who they were speaking of - kinda like "Prince" or "Madonna"... Phil pitched over 70 mph and was pretty good at hitting home runs. If you were not on Phil's team, you did not like Phil.

When DD was younger we always talked about being "that guy" - the one name person that would evoke fear in the other team's dugout. For years, DD led his mom, brothers and I on a baseball journey that consisted of hitting buckets of baseballs in the garage when it was dark and fielding and pitching in the back yard when it was light. With all of his hard work came a lot of success in the form of league championships, sectional championships, undefeated seasons and the ability to hit the ball far......VERY far.

Dylan was invited to try out and played for some really good travel teams and finally realized his short term dream of playing for a National team with US Elite. He received the call that he had made the cut and would be one of 3 mid-infielders on the team. The information that we had in response to this happy news was just the opposite. We had to tell the director that he had just been diagnosed with a very rare aggressive pediatric cancer called embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. DD was just 14 years old and Christmas was a month away. Dylan decided to play baseball and go to school during chemo treatments. We learned how to give him shots to keep his white blood cell counts up when he was traveling to Florida, Virginia, the Carolinas and throughout Pa to play with his team. He was sick, bald, suffered from neuropathy in his fingers and feet, and had to use a catheter to go to the bathroom.....he was also the best damn shortstop around. I don't know another who would take this approach but that was just DD's way. He was an amazing, talented, driven young man.

From the time he was diagnosed, we had only just over a year to spend with him. We never once believed that he would not beat this illness - but we were wrong. DD fought and lived his life to the fullest until the end. He loved his family, friends and girlfriend and fully understood his fate. He handled his final days with the maturity that only someone with decades of wisdom and incredible insight could have. He released the ones he loved from sorrow and asked us to continue to live. Dylan, finally, asked that he not be forgotten.

So, the Dylan K. Crunick Memorial Tournament was imagined and brought to life by our dear friend, Dylan's former coach and long time VP of Bellefonte Little League, Larry Horner. This began as a way to allow Dylan's friends to have a few baseball games in his memory. A way to bring those that knew DD back to the fields where he once dominated and battled with his team mates. To win, or lose, and shake hands after. A chance to kick up some of the same dirt and run through that same grass that created all of those fragile memories.

The first year brought together four teams that wore bright shirts under the " Cavalier" moniker. Dylan loved lively, bright colors and would have approved of this approach to team branding. The expectation of a loose, fun weekend of baseball soon gave way to a serious ultra-competitive baseball that matched teams against each other for the sole honor of drinking Gatorade from a bowl purchased from the Salvation Army. The testosterone driven desire to win while playing great baseball and goofing around with your friends soon became the theme of the event. I, personally, think this is exactly what Dylan would have wanted.

We play each year with respect and with the desire to be the best, to show to ourselves that we may, or may not, be as good as we were yesterday, but we are going to be the best that we can be today. To run, hit pitch and catch for those who cannot. To fight like hell, just like DD would have, to have the privilege of having your name on that cup DD inspired. This isn't a weekend about winning,

and it ain't about losing either. It's about making ourselves proud of what we do, who we are and grateful for the ability to do it.

So, go out there and hit a homer, steal a base or strike out the side..... and when you do say a little prayer for DD and say a little prayer for those guys that can't be on the field with you.

- Dylan's Dad

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