A Boy, His Dog and His Favorite Baseball Team

fenway web .jpgThis story originally appeared on GoNU.com

Huskies and golden retrievers may not always get along, especially in the world of collegiate athletics. But when it comes to helping out a teammate, the Northeastern Huskies baseball team was more than willing to welcome a different breed aboard.

Liam McGourty, who recently celebrated his 11th birthday, has been a member of the Northeastern baseball squad since 2012, when he was signed to the Huskies’ honorary roster spot through Team IMPACT. The Norwood, Massachusetts, native is living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), which primarily affects boys between the ages of 2 and 6. The disease weakens the body’s muscles over time – as Liam himself puts it, “they’re not as strong as other people’s are.”

Liam and his family have become an integral part of the Northeastern baseball program during the past six years. Together with his parents Kristen and Jeff and younger sister Abigail, Liam enjoys home games at Friedman Diamond from along the third base line in the family’s own set of personalized front-row seats. Members of the baseball team have visited Liam to brighten his dreary hospital stays that are sometimes required for treatments. Several players were in attendance at the McGourty home last week for Liam’s birthday party.

The team has also participated annually in the Miles for Liam 5K – sponsored by the McGourty family’s Liam’s L.E.E.P. foundation, which aims to raise awareness, research, and support for families dealing with DMD – incorporating the event into its 19 Ways community service initiative during each of the past three seasons. It was during the most recent 5K that senior Nolan Lang realized there was more to be done in helping out their youngest teammate.

At the event, the NU third baseman met with representatives from Golden Opportunities for Independence, an organization that pairs service dogs with individuals who may need one. Liam and his family had already been in touch with the organization and were waiting for a match when Lang offered to house, raise, and train Liam’s eventual service dog.

While balancing academics and baseball, Lang (with help from his teammates) attends weekly trainings with Liam’s to-be working golden retriever – appropriately named Fenway. Lang works with Fenway daily to reinforce what he has learned in an effort to make Fenway available to Liam as soon as possible.

“[We’re just] making sure he knows how to be a good dog and when he’s ready to go to Liam, he knows what to do,” Lang said.

Photo by Brian Bae