Tate Cooper: He's Not Your Average Catcher
COLUMBIA - Tate Cooper is a fighter on and off the baseball diamond.He looks like your average seventh grader, but it's fair to say there's nothing average about him.
Cooper can play a lot of positions on the baseball field... But he's most comfortable at home... Behind the plate.
For the best catchers... Suiting up is just the start of the job... For the best... There are bigger concerns.
The biggest task as a catcher is you have to be the one out there that leaves it out there. You have to help out the pitcher," said Cooper.
Tate Cooper helps more than most 12 year-old's. He actually calls the pitches.
His coach Greg Kespohl said, "He looks at the batters feet between every pitch. He sets kids up, he goes in and out, he changes speeds."
Cooper said, "When they do their practice swings if they have slow hands I'll bust them inside with a couple fastballs or if they are people that get out in front you get a couple of change-ups along the way."
Cooper's skills earned him a spot on the 2010 Daniel Boone Little League All-star Team.
"You always think you're the all-star and when you get this age it's cool to think that other kids and other coaches think that way, too," said Cooper.
Cooper's mom Laura Sievert said, "He told my dad when he was two he was built with a dimmer switch. On or off and no in between."
Baseball is more than just Cooper's passion, it's his get away. For him protection is about more than shin guards.
Sievert said, "He's been sicker since birth. He got his first serious virus at two weeks of age."
He also gets the same illnesses again and again.
"It was tough because I couldn't fight anything off. Anytime anyone got anything in class... Next day i'd have it," said Cooper.
After years of frustration, In December, 2008 doctors caught it. Common Variable Immune Deficiency or CVID for short.
Cooper said, "When I was born, I don't have enough antibodies and those I do have don't work correctly."
People with C.V.I.D. face a lifetime of being sicker than the average person and increased risk for cancers.
"It'd be like catching a 90 mile per hour fastball with no cup and no gear," said Cooper.
"What he has is basically a genetic immune deficiency. If he gets sick with something his body is not going to mount any kind of normal response to it," said Sievert.
"It's not something he wants to be defined by. He doesn't want you to think of him as somebody that needs special treatment," said Kespohl.
But Tate does need a transfusion twice weekly. It's a painful process and takes a few hours.
"This plasma product which is basically the antibodies his bodies can't make that he gets from donors that donate their plasma," said Sievert.
"Anytime I could I would want to play sports. It was a way to forget about that. When I'm on the field that's all that matters," said Cooper.
But he couldn't always play sports. In the little league regional semifinal, sickness took him out of the game.
"Had a fever. Had to come out after the second inning and it was tough because that was my last game and that's not the way you want to go out," said Cooper.
Only one in about 50-thousand have Common Variable Immune Deficiency.
"It could always be worse. I just have to be thankful for what I have and what I am able to do," said Cooper.
And what he does is more than the average 12 year old, average catcher, or average person.
"Thinking about it isn't going to make it better. I just have to move on accept it," said Cooper.
"Every practice, every game, he comes up to me. He sticks out his hand and he looks me in the eye and he says thank you, coach," said Cooper.
Tate isn't just a baseball player, he's also a triathlete, and likes to scuba dive.
Cooper's mom says the family lives life differently. When Tate's healthy, they do more.
Cooper credits a lot of his baseball skills to his older brother, Tanner.