Dylan Gallagher did not start the game Friday night for the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. Bronco 11-and-under All-Stars.
Gallagher was on the bench cheering for his teammates until the top of the fourth inning, happy for the team success and waiting for his chance.
When you’ve been through as much as he has, patience is a virtue.
Gallagher pinch-hit and provided the game’s best moment, even more so for the fans aware of his history. He roped a double to the wall in left-center field, scoring two runs.
After the hit, he stood on second base, his hands on his hips and a big smile on his face as teammates and parents cheered.
The outfielder drove in the 16th and 17th runs in what would become a 20-1 Newport Harbor rout, over Valley-Wide, in five innings in the first game of the PONY Super Region tournament at York Field in Whittier. But it meant much more than just piling it on.
Dylan Gallagher was born with four congenital heart defects, his mother Ginny said. He had his first open heart surgery when he was four days old.
The current problem is that his tricuspid valve is leaking at a more rapid rate. The 11-year-old, who will be a sixth-grader at Mariners Christian School, is set to have open heart surgery on July 23 at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He is expected to be at the hospital for several days.
“The leak has increased pretty signifcantly,” Ginny Gallagher said. “They want to repair the valve before it’s too damaged.”
The NHBA All-Stars have rallied around their teammate and friend after learning this week of his situation. Their caps have “#DylanStrong” embroidered on the side of them.
“It’s part of his journey,” Ginny Gallagher said. “This team has been super supportive and such a blessing. I think for an 11-year-old boy to not always talk about it, but just look at your buddy’s hat and know that he’s supporting you, it’s a great message.”
Newport Harbor will play in a Super Region winner’s bracket game on Saturday at 5 p.m. The local team, which has won district and region titles, had little trouble with Valley-Wide. They broke the game open with a 14-run fourth inning.
Leadoff hitter Bode Stefano, the catcher, had four hits for the winners. Jaxon Guyser and Lawson Olmstead had three each, while Hudson Perez, Carson Muto and Tyler Pence had two each. Pence also contributed four runs batted in. Gavin Guy walked three times and scored three runs, while Brody Williams and starting pitcher Ryan Williams each had hits.
On the mound, Williams, Guy, Olmstead and Jake Meer shut down the Valley-Wide bats. Meer and Will Harrington also had pinch-hit singles.
Everyone contributed. Dylan Gallagher’s hit, though, couldn’t have been scripted any better.
“The hit of the day,” Newport Harbor manager Sean Pence said. “The rope of the day. I couldn’t have been more proud of Dylan. He’s one of the best kids I know. That was an absolute bomb, just a cannon.”
After the game, he spoke like someone who could be a leader for the team, heart conditions or not.
“We’re happy, but we also have a lot of work to do,” Gallagher said. “This is Super Region. We’re not going to have very many games like [tonight], and we just need to keep working hard.”
The impetus for hard work is not hard to find. It’s right there on their caps.
The NHBA Bronco 11-and-under All-Stars are “Dylan Strong.”