In Loving Memory of Michael Payavla...
Michael Socrates Payavla
Nov. 3rd, 1998 - Oct. 12th, 2007
Michael, along with his twin brother Nicholas, began playing baseball at Lamar Little League in the spring 04'. Their 1st team to play on was on the Braves in the Tee Ball division. This was our first experience with Lamar and we immediately knew that we were at home here. When the spring season was over the boys looked forward to soccer in the fall. They played soccer for FFPS and one year at Lamar. We were getting in a routine of baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall. The following year, the boys played Rookie with the Marlins. They looked forward to each spring and opening day. The first truly heart felt season was when I managed the boys in Double "A" of 06'. The "Orioles" was one remarkable group of boys, coaches and parents. It was truly a "Dream Season" and Michael especially touched a lot of hearts with his hard play and smile. We could not have imagined what was in store for Michael and how each player and parent on the team would fit in later on in Michael's bout with cancer. He always considered himself the "pitcher" even though he played the position while it was machine pitch. Michael never complained and always did what the coaches asked of him. This was the last season that Michael would ever play baseball as a healthy little boy.
On August 31, 2006, at 6:30a.m, Michael and our lives were changed forever. As Karen, his mother, was calling for Michael to come eat breakfast she noticed he was not answering. She turned and looked at Michael and knew he was having a seizure and called for Nicholas to call 911. Michael was rushed to Oak Bend and later that day he was flown by Life Flight to Texas Children's Hospital. Our worst fears were confirmed when Michael was diagnosed with Astrocytoma Glioma. (A large malignant brain tumor which occupied 1/3 of his right lobe). We were told that the tumor was inoperable and Michael was given 1 to 2 years to live (with treatment).
After much consideration, we decided to fly to California and have Proton radiation and chemotherapy treatment at Loma Linda Hospital. This was especially hard because the entire family was apart for 7 weeks including Thanksgiving, but we knew this needed to be done for Michael's best interest.
Once we came home it was time for Christmas and we told Michael get ready because baseball season was around the corner. We had a nice Christmas and looked forward to spring baseball.
We remember wanting Michael to play ball with his friends but were very concerned about his health. He was on oral chemotherapy, seizure medication and quite a few other medicines at the time. We asked ourselves if we were pushing Michael too much, but we went ahead and registered him. We were worried if we had done the right thing.
One night, we received a phone call from Darrick Reed telling us that he had drafted both Michael and Nicholas and he asked if I could help coach. The boys were elated, especially since they could play with one of their best friends, Ty. When we told them the name of their team was the Cardinals, you should have seen Michael face. He was so excited and could not wait to play. His favorite color was red!!!
When the first few practices were held, Michael was a little slow to get started. He had gained 23 pounds in 5 months from taking steroids and it was hard on his body. I remember telling the coaching staff of Darrick Reed, Brad Jones and Mark Rickett that Michael would need extra assistance. Of course everyone was willing to help Michael. One memory I will never forget is when I told Mark Rickett that Michael was a real fighter and he turned around and looked at me and said: "He's not a fighter he's a Warrior". That went straight to my heart and I knew right then that we were surrounded by a great group of people.
Michael and Nicholas were there at opening ceremonies and Michael read the Little League Pledge and threw out the 1st pitch to his brother.
Michael went on and played about half of the season. The seizures and the increasing heat were taking a toll on his body. His mind was still sharp and at one of his last "at bats"; he hit a line drive right over the shortstop's head into left field. I greeted him at 1st base and told him that was an awesome hit. We then put in a pinch runner for him and he received a loud ovation from all the players and parents from both teams as he walked back to the dugout. His teammates came out and greeted him making sure that he got back into the dugout safely. Truly Michael was a special little boy.
The closing ceremony was very heart felt when Darrick Reed first told everyone to be silent while he presented Michael with the Sportsmanship award. Darrick went on to say how he started out to teach Michael, but it was Michael who ended up teaching Darrick. He went on to say that Michael showed so much courage while battling his illness and yet he never complained about anything, he just kept smiling and playing ball. Everyone had tears in their eyes that night.
Michael continued to weaken during the summer and on October 12, 2007; at 1:40 p.m. his Angels took him home to Heaven. He left this life with the same courage he had shown throughout his illness.
After Michael's death, while I was managing Nicholas (Minor Mets) in fall ball, Darrick called me and asked if it would be okay with us if they named Field #7 after Michael. Of course I was speechless and couldn't get a word out for a minute. Then I replied yes, that my family and Michael would be much honored. Darrick was relaying the request from the Board of Directors.
It continues to be an honor to be part of an organization that truly places the children's best interest first. We want to thank the Board of Directors and everyone for their continued support throughout our journey and for honoring Michael. Baseball was Michael's true love.
We already know the name of Michael's team this spring; he will be playing for the Angels.
The Payavla Family
Dimitry, Karen, Michael & Nicholas