Playing for a cure

"He just plugs away and says, 'I'm going to still do whatever it is that my friends do,'" Sue Ellen said.

It's the same kind of mindset his parents have had: "It's OK, we just do things a little differently," Sue Ellen said.

In fact, for a long time, the casual observer would have had a hard time knowing anything was wrong with Derek. "People would always say, 'He looks great,'" Sue Ellen said.

Put Derek next to his peers, though, and it is and was clear he was behind. At the root of the problem, Sue Ellen said, is a missing protein called dystrophin. Without dystrophin, the muscles in people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy start to disintegrate.

It sounds simple enough: find a way to get that protein inside the body of kids with Duchenne. But science is rarely simple, which is why funds are needed to continue researching muscular dystrophy and how to treat, and hopefully cure, it, Sue Ellen said.

It's a cause the Dutchmen, a summer baseball team for some of the country's top college players, are happy to get behind. Charity work is a cornerstone of the organization's operation; players regularly volunteer with local groups and give baseball clinics.

"They're very intertwined with the community," Dutchmen General Manager Jason Brinkman said.

Last year's game in honor of Derek was played at the Dutchmen's home field in downtown Albany, Bleecker Stadium. This year, the Dutchmen move to the Plumeri Sports Complex, and so does the charity game.

"It's really just a phenomenal place to watch a game," Brinkman said. "The facilities have been significantly upgraded."

Both Brinkman and Sue Ellen stressed that the softball game is fun for all ages. Brinkman added that the same is true of Dutchmen games, which give college players the chance to use wooden bats like professional players do (the college game uses aluminum bats). The Dutchmen's home season starts June 9 and features 26 home contests.

As for the softball game, players include Bob Kovachick and Jason Gough of WNYT, as well as players from The Spotlight, The Times Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers, as MDA is their nationally sponsored charity. The Plumeri Sports Complex is on Frisbie and McCarty avenues at the foot of I-787 in Albany. Admission to the game is $5, with all proceeds benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association.""

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