WORCESTER, Mass. – November 9th was national signing day for Division I and II colleges across the nation, but the biggest signing in all of Worcester involved four-year-old Ari Schultz signing his national letter of intent to become a part of the Assumption College baseball program.
The avid sports fan, Ari spent the time leading up to the press conference playing catch with anyone and everyone, showing off an arm better than most his age. His laugh and smile were infectious, loosening up the room while waiting for the procession to get underway. He seemed like any other four-year old with a captive audience, showing off his sense of humor while also boasting his talented throwing and catching abilities.
However, Ari isn't like most four-year-olds. He has spent his entire life in and out of the hospital due to heart complications. While still in the womb, Ari was diagnosed with fetal critical aortic stenosis, which required multiple heart surgeries before he was even born. Being a fighter, he has had multiple surgeries in the years since, but hasn't let it damper his love and enjoyment of sports.
Ari's love of sports is what led him to Team IMPACT and the Assumption baseball team. Team IMPACT (Inspire, Motivate, and Play Against Challenges Together), connects children with life-threatening or chronic illnesses with college sports teams to create a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties. The children truly become part of the team and to date Team IMPACT has matched up hundreds of children with college teams. Team IMPACT Executive Director Seth Rosenzweig had gotten to know Ari and his family and this seemed like something he would enjoy, and the Assumption baseball team was more than happy to have him become a part of their program.
Ari's love of baseball was on full display during his introductory press conference. Assumption Head Baseball Coach Mike Rocco talked about his great attitude and impressive skills and how happy he was to have Ari join the program. Coach Rocco introduced his father, Mike, who talked about Ari's journey and how excited he was to be a part of the team. Ari then took some questions from the crowd and was sure to let everyone in attendance know that his favorite player is Ted Williams and that he taught himself to throw a baseball, not anyone else.
Following the press conference Ari hung out to play catch with his new teammates, as well as take some photos with those in attendance and conduct some interviews with local TV stations on his own.
It was a magical day for both Ari, Team IMPACT and the Assumption baseball team, as senior co-captain Jake Byrne acknowledged.
"It was an unforgettable experience signing Ari on to our team and seeing how excited he was and how excited our team and the Assumption community was to welcome him and his family," said Byrne. "The smile on his face reminds each one of us how lucky we are to be in good health and to have the opportunity to play the game that we love at this level. Ari is a part of our family now and we couldn't be more excited to have him on our team."
Head coach Mike Rocco echoed Byrne's sentiments. "I thought today was an unbelievable experience, not just for Ari and his family, but for all of Assumption," said Rocco. "I can't thank the people of Team IMPACT enough, as well as the members of the Assumption College community for making the day so special for Ari and his family. I know they had an amazing time. I'm extremely excited to have Ari on board. In the short amount of time that we have known him, he has been awesome to be around. He has such an amazing personality and is so outgoing, it is contagious. I think it's going to be great to have him around the team. He's the best."