Ty Lallone, a 5-year-old kindergartner from Wellsburg, W.Va., had an opportunity even adults dream of at Saturday’s West Virginia University baseball game against Kansas State.
Ty, who suffers from a congenital heart defect, threw the ceremonial first pitch and was honored by the team on the field prior to the game.
At 3 months old, Ty’s parents, Jonathan and Courtney, took him to his regular three-month checkup. After the doctor listened to Ty’s heart, he told the Lallones he heard a tick and wanted a cardiologist to look into it further.
The tests revealed Ty had a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart.
“It was by the grace of God they caught it, because that valve doesn’t make a sound,” Jonathan said. “This is what children die suddenly from because they never knew they had it.”
Since the discovery, Ty has had cardiologist appointments every six months and was recently referred to a surgeon at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Ty will soon undergo a surgery called the Ross procedure, or pulmonary autograft, in which the defective pulmonary valve will be cut out and replaced with a cadaver valve.
Ty was recruited by Valerie Grimes, the division director for the American Heart Association, to be honored at the game. Grimes worked with Mara Regling, a WVU senior public relations student, to bring Ty and his family to the game.
As her capstone project, Regling was in charge of PR and communications for the event. She said she felt it was a great opportunity to honor a devoted Mountaineer fan while drawing attention to childhood heart diseases.
“Ty is just loving every minute of this,” she said. “It’s so great to see him so happy and really enjoying this experience.”
Jonathan said when Ty found out he would be throwing the first pitch, he immediately ran and put on his baseball glove and said, “This is going to be the greatest day of my life.”
Ty even told his teacher he would be playing baseball for the Mountaineers when he was old enough to go to college.
Courtney said her entire family was thrilled Ty was receiving this opportunity and being recognized by the team.
“There are no words to explain what this honor means to us; it’s amazing,” she said. “He’s got the biggest heart and is just loving being out here.”
After throwing the first pitch and joining in the team huddle before the start of Saturday’s game, Ty was smiling ear to ear and said he had fun being on the field with the Mountaineers.