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Eddie Caufield is a big hit in tight-knit Henderson community (Part 2)

zzcaufieldawardsaEditor’s Note: Second of two-part series

By ANDY EDWARDS

Baseball has been so good to Eddie Caufield over the last 13 years. But Eddie has repaid the sport he loves in spades with his singular devotion and uncanny ability to inspire others. In that light, it only seems fair that his senior year at Henderson turned out the way it did. Eddie’s swan song at Henderson proved a symphony of stunning proportions.

For starters, Thomas joined him on the varsity squad, giving the brothers a full season as teammates for the first time in many years.

“During tryouts, my biggest motivation for making the varsity team was to get to play one year with Eddie,” said Thomas, who played shortstop for the Warriors as a freshman.

The 2015 campaign fell short of expectations for Henderson, which struggled to a 7-12 league mark and a last-place finish in the Ches-Mont League National Division. But records and statistics never mattered much to Eddie. He was always overjoyed just to be in the dugout, to be a part of a team with his brother and many of his closest friends. This year, however, Eddie finally got his chance when McNichol inserted him into right field in a game against Unionville.

“It was a great moment because we heard Coach say, ‘Eddie, you’re going to right,’”Vince Feola remembers. “We were all so happy for him…he was out warming up and we were cheering him on.”

The watershed moment had been in the works ever since Eddie put on a uniform. He even got to run the bases, showing off his baseball acumen in the process.

“As things developed we wanted to try to get him in a varsity game, but not compromise the game or Eddie in any way,” head coach Luke McNichol said. “When we saw fit, we got him into run the bases against Unionville. He went first to third on a single to right, picked up the coach – he knows baseball. We got him to third base twice and wanted to get him in, but it didn’t work out that way. He’s a special kid because when you see Eddie he’s always smiling…you can’t be a happier kid, and it didn’t matter if we were up 10, tight game or what, he keeps everything in perspective.”

But there were more surprises in store. Late in the season, Thomas was walking up to the plate, ready to bat late in a contest against Downingtown East that the Warriors were dominating. He never got a chance to swing.

zcaufieldhits“I heard Coach say he was taking me out,” Thomas recalls. “I was so mad.”

He wouldn’t be for long. The call came in from the dugout: Caufield for Caufield.

“Coach put Eddie in, and all of a sudden everyone got this massive energy and everyone was cheering,” says Grayson Davis, a senior pitcher. “Hey 24, here we go! We were so excited.”

“Eddie,” Thomas said, “is the only guy I’d be okay with pinch-hitting for me.”

Ever a ball player, Eddie worked a four-pitch walk. By the time the fourth ball had struck the catcher’s mitt low and outside, Eddie was off to the races, hustling to first base like he was shot out ofa cannon.

“When he drew the walk, it was the most excited the team was the whole year,” said Feola. “We all know that’s where he wants to be, needs to be, and deserves to be.”

For Eddie’s teammates, the moment was more than a brief shot of energy in a somewhat disappointing season. It was the culmination of four years of devotion, a profound statement about perseverance. Most of all, it was fun. And that’s what Eddie Caufield is all about. Smiles and baseball, baseball and smiles.

“He was so happy up there,” Cole Bement said. “The smile grew twice as big. He dug in, he just…words can’t even describe it. He was having a blast.”

Ed had to leave early to take Casey to one of his games, but he’s heard the story so many times that he feels like he was there.

“I wish I could have been there with Casey, but I can see it,” Ed said. “I can visualize it.”

Megan was there. At first she didn’t know what was happening. She heard a commotion from the dugout but thought nothing of it. Then came Eddie’s time, and with it the tears.

“Every time something like that happens, everyone gets so excited and it’s almost like they’re hugging Eddie when they’re hugging me,” Megan says. “Sometimes I miss the moments because I get very emotional…it was such a proud moment. I just feel blessed that we’re in this community. Once again, it goes back to everyone that we’re with. It could have been a different story. We’re just so blessed.”

There were many more tears ahead, all of the good variety, for Eddie’s tour of glory hardly ended there. At the team’s season-ending banquet, McNichol announced that Eddie, along with Feola and Davis, had been named an honorable mention selection to the All-Ches-Mont League Team.

“There are very few people that it would mean so much for,” Davis said. “It’s a personal thing, but to share it with Eddie was awesome. Between him and Vince, it’s like I grew up with them, and now I’m on a team honoring us and Eddie is with me. He meant so much to everyone, and to share it with him was so special.”

Ditto for Feola.

zcaufieldprom

Eddie Caufield, right, with Henderson teammate Grayson Davis, left, and their respective Prom dates.

“It meant so much,” he said. “Words can barely describe it. Coach announced it at our banquet, and he told everyone to stand up and read Eddie’s name. It was the coolest thing for everyone to hear. That Eddie smile was twice as big as it normally is. It’s an honor to share that with him.”

Somehow, that was just a prelude to the biggest surprise of all. Along with assistant coach Steve Fitch, McNichol felt it imperative to honor Eddie in an even more permanent way. So, he had a plaque made. On one side is a photo of Eddie warming up in right field before the Unionville game. On the other is a picture of him at the plate against Downingtown East. And in the middle is a touching narrative that details Eddie’s special place in Henderson baseball history.

At the school’s senior assembly, Eddie was called to the stage. In front of the entire Class of 2015, he was presented with the plaque, and the principal announced that from now on, the award will be known as the Eddie Caufield Baseball Spirit Award. Each year it will go to a Warrior who best exemplifies Eddie’s dedication and generosity of spirit. As the announcement came, Henderson’s senior class rose in sections, led by the baseball team. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

“Of course I couldn’t keep it together,” Ed said. “But I look over, and Coach McNichol is a wreck. (Henderson football coach) Steve Mitten relayed to Megan that his ‘boys,’ these big, burly football players, are all wiping their eyes.’”

Eddie isn’t the most loquacious – unless, of course, the subject is baseball. But ask him about that moment, and the smile spreading across his face is worth any number of words. That moment, and all the little ones that brought him to it, said everything about Eddie.

“He reminds us that it’s about more than what’s on the scoreboard,” Bement said. “You’re playing for the team, your family and your friends. The passion that he has just makes us have so much more to play for than wins and losses. It gives a big incentive for us that is superior to winning.”

“Let’s say you just had a bad at-bat,” Davis added. “While you’re upset about having a bad at-bat, Eddie would do anything just to have the chance to have a bad at-bat. That’s why I loved having him there.”

Eddie was a manager, player, role model, teammate, and all-around inspiration throughout his four years in maroon and white. But that hardly seems to do him justice. Among all those other titles, he’s a wonderful son and a caring older brother. Most of all, Eddie Caufield is a baseball player.

“It’s a game, and we should be enjoying it,” McNichol said. “That’s what I got from him – each season, each year is too short. Four years fly by, and when you’re there on the field doing something you love, you should enjoy it. You should be able to smile when you do that, and that’s what Eddie does. He’s just an unbelievable kid who has blessed us for four years. I gave him his uniform as a freshman and I got it back this year.

“The kid has touched Henderson far more than just the baseball team. I’ve learned more from Eddie Caufield than he could ever learn from me.”

On deck: Penn State-Brandywine baseball

Though his time at Henderson is at an end, Eddie’s life in baseball is far from over. He will attend the Brandywine campus of Penn State University in the fall, and has already locked up a spot as manager of the varsity baseball team. He ran into the school’s recruiting director at a recent game, and she introduced the coaches to Eddie and his parents.

“They came over and said, ‘Hey Eddie, welcome to the family. You’re in,’” Megan said. “I was like, we’re in? Just like that?

“That was another crying moment.”

And he won’t be alone. His best friend, Matt Yarosewick, who Ed says is “like a fourth son” to the Caufields, has committed to play baseball there. Matt and Eddie formed a potent battery as 12-year-olds in the West Side Little League, and the Caufields are so fond of him, in large part, because of how he interacts with Eddie.

“Here is a kid who treats Eddie like everybody else,” Megan says. “He treats him no different than how he treats Thomas or Casey. If Eddie does something stupid, he’ll tell him. That was the first time I’d heard anyone say that to Eddie. He treats him like any other kid.

“He has been a phenomenal friend to all of our boys. He’s become a part of our family.”

Until he becomes a college student, Eddie will spend the summer umpiring in the WSLL, a task he has fulfilled for many years. Thomas is also playing legion ball and with All-Star Baseball Academy’s U-15 elite travel team. Casey, who will be at Henderson in two years, just finished up his Little League season and was a starter for the Middle Atlantic all-star team that advanced to the United States final in the Cal Ripken World Series. As proud a mother as there is anywhere, Megan can’t help but share her happiness with others – even if they don’t see it.

“I send pictures to Jimmy Rollins (Megan’s all-time favorite Phillie) on Twitter all the time,” she says. “Thomas is like, ‘what are you doing sending pictures to Jimmy Rollins?’ He hasn’t responded yet…he’s probably like, ‘what is she doing?’ But I’ll keep trying.”

The Henderson ‘halo’

Recently, while shopping at Giant, Megan ran into a Henderson student in the checkout line. The girl told Megan that she loved her school so much because “no matter who you are or what group you’re in, everyone accepts everyone for who they are.”

zcaufieldgradEvery time I see that school I just see a big halo around it,” Megan says.

After 18 years of raising Eddie, Megan has plenty of stories to tell. So she’s spent quite a bit of time thinking about what she would title a book about them. Her proposed title: Kids Are Kind.

“That’s Henderson in a nutshell,” she said. “The kids are really kind on their own, without any prompting from the adults.

“I’m so happy for Eddie, but I’m even more grateful for the experience of being part of that community.”

Seven weeks ago, Eddie graduated from Henderson High School. Before he walked up to the stage, before he took his diploma and celebrated with his adoring family and friends – Casey’s instagram picture of the three Caufield brothers after the ceremony received nearly 400 likes – he listened to that speech by valedictorian Courtney Deacon. She quoted the author Stephen C. Lundin, who quoted Desmond Tutu and so many other devotees of Ubuntu:

“I am who I am because of who we all are.”

Eddie Caufield is a wonderful paradox. He is an inspiration to so many – his brothers, parents, teammates, coaches, and classmates, among many more – yet thoroughly happy to allow others to inspire him. He leaves a mark on everyone he encounters while being shaped by them in turn. He is carpe diem, bottled into a baseball fanatic with a million-dollar smile.

He is the essence of Ubuntu – he is who he is because of everyone else.

He is one of a kind. He is just like us.

He is, simply, Eddie.

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