DECATUR — When MyShaun Dozier traveled to St. Louis for surgeries and checkups at Shriners Hospital as a child, he kept seeing Cardinals signs everywhere.
From that, a lifelong fandom was born. And the 11 World Series championships don't hurt, either. On Saturday, Dozier will get the opportunity of a lifetime: Throwing out the first pitch at Saturday's Cardinals game against the Los Angeles Angels.
DECATUR — There are a few certainties that Denita Mathews knows about her grandson, MyShaun Dozier.
Dozier, a MacArthur junior-to-be, recently gained internet fame for playing baseball without the radial bones in both of his arms. He has been diagnosed with Thrombocytopenia-absent radius, better known as TAR Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects fewer than 1 in 100,000 newborns.
"It's really one of the best things, probably ever for me," Dozier said. "I really like the St. Louis Cardinals and throwing the first pitch. It's real cool. It's really an honor to do something like this with the Cardinals."
It will be the first Major League Baseball game Dozier has ever attended, in the home of his favorite team. He'll be joined by his grandmother, Denita Mathews; his sister, Mytaija Dozier, cousins Donell Hilliard and Semar Green; MacArthur Athletic Director Jason Crutcher; MacArthur junior varsity coach Jesse Danbury; and varsity baseball coach Eldon Bryan.
"It's going to be a great experience," Dozier said. "Not only throwing the first pitch, but watching my first MLB game, especially with my coaches, my grandma and everybody there."
Mathews is already expecting an emotionally overwhelming moment, even though she's a Chicago Cubs fan. In February, she watched her grandson take a chance when he tried out for, and made, the MacArthur junior varsity baseball team. Months later, he'll be standing in Busch Stadium throwing out the first pitch on the same field he grew up watching his favorite players play on. The game is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., and Dozier and Mathews expect to get to the ballpark around noon before throwing the pitch. It's Shriners Hospitals for Children Day at Busch Stadium, and the family will stay around to watch the game.
"My reaction will probably be tears of joy because this means a lot to him, with all the things he's been through in these 16 years and to go out there and do that," Mathews said. "Even if he hasn't been through all of the challenging things he's been through, for him to go out and throw the first pitch, there will be tears of joy.
"I'm in awe, I'm excited and I can't hardly wait."
Dozier turned into a viral sensation in early May after his story was shared by ESPN, Major League Baseball, Bleacher Report and other national outlets. The story blew up beyond Crutcher's wildest dreams.
“I never would have guessed it would have blossomed the way it did and how many views it got," Crutcher said. "For him to go down (Saturday) and throw out the first patch at the Cardinals game, it’s going to make that kid’s life. That’s what it’s all about."
Baseball has long been Dozier's passion, from throwing balled socks around as a child to trying out for the team in February. This season marked the first time in Dozier's life that he has made a baseball team.
“He doesn’t let anything affect him," Crutcher said. "He’s going to go out and try his hardest. It’s what he’s done for three months. He’s shown people that people with disabilities, that they can overcome anything if they just work hard. He was at every practice working hard, didn’t complain about playing time, he just wanted to be part of the team and do something that he enjoyed and loved doing, which was play baseball."
It's hard telling whose glove the first pitch will land in, but Dozier will get to live out a dream on Saturday. This series is also the return of former Cardinal great Albert Pujols, who returns to St. Louis for the first time since leaving the Cardinals following the 2011 series to sign a 10-year, $240 million with the Angels.
"For you to go out on the field of your team and participate in a game, it is just a wonderful feeling to be able to do something like that," Mathews said. "I am so excited for him to be able to do this because he's always been a fan and he's always wanted to play baseball. he's always been doing something.
"For him to be able to be able throw that ball out there — I don't know who he's throwing to, but I can't wait to see him out there on that field throwing that ball."