BOSTON – When outfielder Josh Reddick was traded from the Red Sox to the Oakland Athletics in the winter of 2011 in a deal that landed pitcher Andrew Bailey, among others, the utility outfielder brought more than just his talents to the Bay Area.
He brought the following of New Hampshire’s Janelle James, and Reddick’s solid play that has made him a starter in Oakland helped keep high the spirits of a 17-year-old cancer survivor.
Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which has helped grant the wishes of more than 226,000 children in the U.S. since 1983, Janelle’s dream of meeting her favorite player again will become a reality, as she is scheduled to serve as an honorary coach for the A’s on Saturday, as well as deliver the team’s lineup card before their matchup with the Red Sox..
Four years ago, at age 13, Janelle was diagnosed with leukemia, a form of blood cancer that makes a person’s bone marrow produce abnormal white blood cells. These abnormal cells do not perform the functions of normal white blood cells, grow faster, don’t stop growing when they should, and over time can crowd out normal blood cells.
“It has definitely been more of a challenge; it was very difficult going through all the treatments and chemo [therapy],” said Janelle. “It was more difficult getting my driver’s license, going to prom, doing what I guess you’d call the ‘normal teenager’ things.”
After Janelle’s diagnosis, members of her neighborhood in Derry, N.H., started a bone marrow drive to try and find a match for her. When no match could be found, Janelle underwent a stem cell transplant. That transplant was successful and her leukemia is now in remission.
Since first meeting Reddick a couple years ago, Janelle has been a big fan of the outfielder, who hit .248 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 143 games with the Red Sox from 2008 through 2010. After he was traded to Oakland in the winter of 2011, Janelle decided to keep following Reddick, as he made his way from Fenway Park to the Oakland Coliseum. Reddick has since become a full-time starter in Oakland, winning a Gold Glove en route to helping the A’s win the AL West division title in 2012.
“I first met [Reddick] in March of 2011: a bunch of kids from the Jimmy Fund got to meet the Red Sox,” she said. “We didn't talk much, it was more of a ‘Hi, how are you’ and he bent down and took a picture with me.”
“Each year, Make-A-Wish New Hampshire grants nearly 80 life-changing wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions,” said Bill Smith of Smith Phillips Strategic Communications, a Wish parent himself. “These wish experiences can be pivot points in the course of a child¹s treatment, making them feel better and in some cases, even helping them get better. A wish-come-true strengthens families, provides moments of happiness and inspiration, and helps create strong community bonds.”
Since arriving in Oakland on Thursday, Janelle and her mother, Lisa, have been taking in the city and seeing some of the sites in the Bay Area, including the Chabot Space & Science Center.
“I have always loved science and the Make-A-Wish Foundation asked me what else I wanted to do with my time here, so I said I wanted to go [to Chabot] too,” she said.
Now that she has the chance to meet her favorite player and serve as the A’s honorary coach on Saturday, Janelle is ready to fully take in the experience, and isn't feeling any pregame jitters.
“I’m not really nervous at all [about being the A’s honorary manager]; I am very excited to go there meet all my favorite players [on the A’s] and talk with them; Coco Crisp is another one of my favorites that I followed over here from the Red Sox,” she said. “I wasn't able to follow baseball as much as I wanted when I was really sick, but I have been able to follow baseball more in the past few years since I have gotten better.”
The main contributors to The Buzz are:
- Matt Pepin, Boston.com sports editor
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Gary Dzen, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer