Spirit of a champion

Published 9:13 am Saturday, November 19, 2011

Members of the 2011 Sun Belt Champion Troy Trojans Baseball Team awarded a championship ring to Cody Brooks, their youngest fan. Players and coaches said his spirit, enthusiasm and courage in the face of physical challenges proved inspirational for them this year. Above, Bobby Pierce, Adam Bryant, Cody Brooks, Jacob Dixon and Todd McRae pose with their rings. (Submitted Photo)

Sun Belt champs award ring to youngest fan

Cody Brooks weighed only a little over a pound when he was born, but that little boy was all heart and love.

At age 10, Cody has a joyful spirit about him that is so contagious that he spreads it everywhere he goes.

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Last Saturday, the Troy University 2011 Sun Belt Championship baseball team had an opportunity to turn the tables on Cody by bringing a huge ray of sunshine into his life. Actually, the sunshine came in tiny little rays that danced and sparkled off the “diamonds” in the 2011 Sun Belt Baseball Championship ring that the team awarded to its “littlest teammate.”

Cody might be considered by some as the mascot of the Troy University baseball team but he’s not just a good luck charm. He’s much more than that. He’s the spirit of the team.

As the Trojans belted their way to the 2011 Sun Belt Championship, Cody was the inspiration that carried the team in good times and though times.

“When our players would be having a tough time on the field, they would look up in the stands and see Cody and think about all that he has been through and he would inspire them to forget about their problems and keep on fighting,” said Head Baseball Coach Bobby Pierce.

The Cody Brooks story began simply as a way to further Cody’s interest in Trojan athletics.

Cody’s aunt, LeAnn Register, who works for the Trojan Athletic Department, told Pierce about Cody and his love of baseball.

“LeAnn said Cody was a huge Trojan baseball fan. He played that NCAA baseball game every day and he was always the Troy Trojans,” Pierce said. “He knew the names of all our players and their stats.

“I was impressed by his knowledge of our team and his passion for it. Finding out about Cody’s situation and all the physical problems he had overcome was inspiring.”

Pierce wanted to meet Cody and spent hour or more with him just playing around at Riddle-Pace Field. Then he began to notice Cody at the games and Cody became a part of the games. At first, he was on the field after home games playing around with the players and then on the field with them before the games.

Before long, Cody was in the huddle with the players and soon in their hearts.

“The team didn’t have to do anything as far as connecting with Cody on a personal level,” Pierce said. “It was just Cody being Cody and the connection was there. It was amazing to see the process unfold. One game after another, he became a part of the team and it was so easy and natural.”

Cody was on the field with the players before their home games but, when the games began, he was in the stands, pitching every pitch when the Trojans were in the field and giving enthusiastic support when they were “at bat.”

“We adopted Cody,” Pierce said. “He was one of us and he was a blessing to be around.”

Cody quickly developed a close relationship with the older players, especially catcher Todd McRae.

“Todd was his favorite player at the early stages then Adam Bryant and Jacob Dixon,” said Coach Mark Smartt. “Soon Cody was embraced by all 35 players. Cody’s boundless energy was contagious. His positive attitude was infectious and it spread through the team so seamlessly that we didn’t even know it happened. He inspired all of us.”

Smartt said Cody never has a bad day. He’s the happiest kid I’ve ever seen. It’s heartwarming. It’s just a privilege to have him around.”

Cody was such an important part of the 2011 Trojan baseball team that several of the players approached the coaches about a championship ring for Cody.

But the decision had already been made by the coaching staff.

“It was an easy decision because the players felt so close to him,” Smartt said. “He was like another player on the team.”

The 2011 Sun Belt Baseball Champions received their championship rings between quarters of the university’s Homecoming game on Nov. 12. But Cody received his championship ring a short time later when the team gathered for photographs.

The championship rings were a reward for a fabulous baseball season and that season included Cody Brooks, the “heart” of the team.

Smartt said the ring was a complete surprise for Cody and he’s not sure that he really understood the significance of the ring that was monster size for a young boy.

“He had been trying on the rings of some of the players, so I don’t think that he realized at the time that the ring was his,” Smartt.

But, it didn’t take Cody long to figure that one out.

“It’s got my name on it,” he said, with a broad smile. “It’s says, ‘Brooks.’ That me.”

For Cody, the championship ring is about the biggest thing that has happened to him in his young life. He wears it like badge of honor. And it is. It shows that he is a part of the Trojan baseball team and, for Cody, there will be no greater honor than that … until the day he puts on a Trojan baseball uniform and steps to the plate.

“I want to play on the team for real one day,” he said.

And, one day he will, said McRae. “He’s a real stud out there.”

Pierce agreed that one day Cody just might be in the lineup and it won’t be soon enough.

“Every game, Cody comes up and wants to check the lineup to see if he’s in it,” Pierce said. “I tell him that he’s got to get a little older before he can play but he’s already on the team.”

Cody Brooks is a part of Troy baseball.

“Cody is a blessing to all of us. He is a tremendous inspiration for all of us,” Pierce said. “It’s just a privilege to have this kid around.”

Smartt said Cody is around Trojan baseball because he loves it. “There’s no motive as to what he can get from it but he gives us everything,” he said.