Taylor Musser will be on the baseball diamond with the UMAC Attack all-star team this weekend for the nine and under, and 10 and under Schools Out Tournament.
He’s bringing not only his skills as center fielder, but also a lemonade stand to help give back to the organization that supported him in beating cancer and getting back on the field.
Taylor, 10, former player Sean Quinn, 14, and their families, will sell lemonade and raffle tickets to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand. The organization helped pay the Mussers’ hotel bills while Taylor was receiving six weeks of radiation treatment at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Childhood cancer research receives less than 5 percent of federal government cancer research funds, according to Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s website.
Executive Director Jay Scott explained why childhood cancer research needs more funding: “It’s different in that adult cancers are usually environmentally based cancers ... and childhood cancers are not caused by things kids are exposed to.”
In children, cancer usually goes back to genetics, he said.
After doctors first discovered Taylor’s tumor in spring 2012, his first question was whether he could play in his baseball game with the UMAC (Upper Montgomery County Athletic Club) Orioles that weekend, said his mother, Katie Musser.
“This is my second home,” Taylor said, sitting at a picnic table at the UMAC fields in Boyds on Friday. “I’m happy that I could play again.”
He did play that weekend, before undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor the size of a tennis ball, and was back by the playoffs that spring. But nine months later the tumor had returned, requiring another surgery and 33 rounds of radiation. Just several weeks after completing his second round of treatment, he was back on the field for the start of the 2013 season.
“He didn’t miss a beat,” Katie Musser said.
“I truly believe that baseball gave him the motivation to recover so quickly,” Taylor’s dad, Jason Musser, wrote in an email to the Gazette.
At the end of the 2013 season Taylor was selected for the UMAC all-star team, which he’ll be playing for again this weekend. The team has nicknamed him “Little General.” His family calls him Tay.
Even though he missed six weeks of fourth grade, Taylor finished with top grades, earning a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence signed by President Obama.
The money the families raise for Alex’s Lemonade Stand will go to childhood cancer research, grants and helping others cope with the challenges and costs of cancer treatment.
Sean also underwent six weeks of radiation treatment in Philadelphia, followed by a year of chemotherapy, completing treatment just before his 14th birthday in May. Next fall he’ll be a freshman at Quince Orchard High School and plans to play the sousaphone in the marching band.
On Saturday and Sunday, the families will make plenty of lemonade to sell next to the UMAC snack shack, and raffle tickets for a composite baseball bat, a football autographed by University of Maryland football coach Randy Edsall, a baseball autographed by Nationals player Jayson Werth and a gift basket for mothers with a water bottle, nail supplies and a T-shirt on which will be printed with a design chosen by the winner. All raffle items were donated.
University of Maryland linebacker and rising senior Alex Twine and several teammates also plan to come in support of Taylor and the lemonade stand. Twine and Taylor became friends two years ago after Twine heard about Taylor from his aunt, who lives in Germantown, and that Taylor was a Terps fan. Twine surprised Taylor at home.
“The look on his face was priceless, he had a big smile on his face, didn’t say many words at first but I could tell he was surprised,” Twine said. “I kind of eased into talking to him and getting him to open up.”
He told Taylor it wouldn’t be the last time they saw each other. The team has invited Taylor to their practices and Taylor and Twine get dinner together and talk about baseball, football and video games, Twine said.
At the end of the first practice Taylor visited, Twine picked him up to lead the team cheer.
“He said, ‘One, two, three, Terps!’ and from there all the guys ask me how he’s doing,” Twine said. Twine has also gone to watch a couple of Taylor’s baseball games.
“It’s surprising to me seeing how strong someone that age could be, going through something like that and it motivates me to be a better person and a better player,” Twine said.
“It’s always a good time when I’m with him,” Twine said. “When we’re together we’re not dwelling on the challenges and problems, it’s all happy, and that’s what I like about him, he doesn’t complain about anything. It’s all positive.”
Jason Musser said that they may turn the lemonade stand into an annual event at the UMAC tournament. With teams coming from all over Maryland and northern Virginia, there will be a lot of players and spectators to support the stand and get a reprieve from the summer heat.