Hawkeye baseball team gains unexpected teammate after derecho

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:57 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The last two and a half months have been anything but easy for Andrew Jenkins.

“We are on day 75 after transplant and he’s been doing very well," said Penny Jenkins, Andrew’s mother.

Andrew, at just 13 years old, has battled a lifetime of health complications after being born with a bone-marrow disorder.

“His immune system is weakened to the point where they felt that a bone marrow transplant was the best option for him," Jenkins said.

Doctors at UIHC found a transplant partner from Germany, and while recovering, Andrew developed a strong fandom for the Hawkeyes.

“Two years ago, I’ve was in the hospital and there was a football game," Andrew said. “I watched them and then we were on TV, so I like the Hawkeyes,” Andrew said.

Due to ongoing treatments, Andrew and his mother have to stay local. For 100 days, the pair stays at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City. Away from the rest of their family in Waterloo, the Jenkins are trying to make the most of their time together.

Then on one weekday afternoon, they were sitting outside and heard a noise that changed the rest of their lives.

Just across the street, the Hawkeye baseball team was starting their fall season. The Jenkins, wanting to watch, walked over and were pleasantly surprised to see a chunk of the Hawkeye outfield wall missing. Damage caused by August’s derecho.

“We sat down in the grass and were happy to be able to start watching them practice," Jenkins said.

“This guy came up and he gave me a baseball," Andrew said.

Ever since that day, Andrew and his mother have repeatedly come back to Duane Banks stadium. Sophomore pitcher Jack Dreyer and senior catcher Austin Martin immediately felt a connection.

“I think about him all the time, I talk to my friends and family about him," Dreyer said.

“I’ve just kind of developed a special, special place in my heart for that kid," Martin said.

“Very blessed just see how they’ve, you know, come out behind the uniform and you know, interact and can make Andrew just feel so special," said Jenkins.

Jack and Austin took it upon themselves to continually expand their relationship with Andrew,.Jack, sharing his passion for rubiks cubes, Austin connecting with him on a very personal level.

“It’s like, that’s kind of your little brother and you look forward to talking to him," Martin said.

For Jack and Austin, sharing a friendship with Austin helps keep things in a greater perspective.

“We kind of learn about what he’s having to go through on a daily basis and so when you put that into perspective, it just makes our day a little bit easier,” Dreyer said.

“For me to kind of sit here and feel sorry for myself about certain stuff through life is as a poor excuse when my 13 year old buddy Andrew has been through the absolute ringer,” said Martin.

Its been a year full of days, some good and some bad, getting to spend time with two of his best new friends, makes all the difference for Andrew.

“It helps me a lot, because every time they come they talk about something and ask me questions, and their my friends”

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