VAUGHT: Another big hit for Sawyer Carroll

Kentucky senior outfield Sawyer Carroll certainly has had his share of big hits during his UK career. He recently got a big hit, though, few people probably noticed. However, for 12-year-old Tyler Ward of Boyle County, it was a hit he'll never forget.

Sawyer was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma — cancer — in 1999 when he was 12 years old and in the seventh grade. He went through surgeries and chemotherapy. He spent time in the hospital. But he survived, got well and eventually became a college baseball star.

Ward was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in December, 2006. He went into the hospital on Christmas that year. He completed his initial treatment in April, 2007, and was even able to start playing baseball again. But during the summer, he had a relapse and had to go through the same treatments, including ones that were even more serious, again before finishing in November.

"Everything looks good now. He is getting stronger. He's back to about the weight he was at the end of last summer," his mother, Tracey Ward, said.

When a friend recently called to tell the Tracey and Randy Ward there was a story about Carroll's childhood struggle in the Lexington Herald-Leader, they let their son read it.

"We had just been talking about some of the same concerns Sawyer's dad mention in the paper about how hard it was to watch your son go from being ahead of the pack to the back and having to work his way back up," Tracey Ward said.

"We let Tyler read the story and told him maybe it wouldn't make it back to the top if he just went through the motions. He had to do extra work to get back where he was."

Another family friend, Richie Lyons, thought it might inspire Tyler Ward if he could meet Carroll. He contacted Kentucky to see if there would be any chance to make it happen. Imagine his surprise when Chelsea Hansing, UK's director of baseball operations, got back immediately and invited Lyons to bring his son, T.J., along with Tyler Ward to one of UK's games against Mississippi last week.

"After the game, I will personally take all of you down to the field to meet Sawyer, take pictures and get an autograph," Hansing told Lyons in an e-mail message.

Not only did they go to a game, but they got to see Kentucky win and then Tyler Ward and T.J. Lyons got their chance to meet Carroll, who gave Tyler Ward two baseballs, and even UK coach John Cohen.

"He could not have been nicer after the game. He talked with Tyler a little about what he went through and told him to keep fighting," Richie Lyons said. "Randy asked him how long it took him to feel like himself again and things like that, so he made Randy feel better about everything as well.

"Tyler had a Jacob Tamme jersey on and Sawyer was talking about what a nice guy Jacob was, which is no surprise, either. Tyler was grinning from ear to ear when he left."

It just shows a talented athlete can also be a nice guy and inspire youngsters. Certainly other athletes do the same thing often, but it's just nice occasionally to be able to share these feel-good stories about college athletics.

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