Brayden Bircher is a determined 11-year old boy who has never let a congenital heart defect deter him from his love and passion for sports.
Brayden, a sixth-grader at Highland Middle School, was born with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), which is a heart defect that is present at birth. He had to have open heart surgery at four months old. Brayden will need a procedure to replace a valve, most likely in the next couple of years.
But ever since he was a little boy and his dad would put a ball on a cone for him to hit, Brayden has been avid for sports.
Brayden just returned from playing at an invitational-only All-Star Weekend which was held Dec. 27 through Jan. 1 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney Resort in Bay Lake, Fla, near Orlando.
“It was a really nice complex and I had a lot of fun,” said Brayden, who is also an honor roll student at HMS. “I love to play and watch sports. I follow hockey, MLB and NFL and I like to watch college sports. I also do fantasy football with my dad and I got second place.”
Brayden was one of four boys who teamed up to win the Mickey’s Around the Horn competition, which was part of the Disney New Year Baseball Clinic 2017 Skills Competition.
Brayden, whose normal position is second base, played third base and joined with three other boys who played catcher, first base and second base. The competition was to see who could throw the ball around the four bases the quickest. Brayden’s team won with a winning time of 5.88 seconds.
Brayden’s team also competed in four all-star games, including one against a Nicaraguan team. He played very well.
At the dish, he hit .500 with four singles and three runs scored.
Brayden saved his best for last, going a perfect 3 for 3 and scoring three runs to help his team finish with a victory on New Year’s Eve.
While playing second base, Brayden had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with six total chances on five put-outs and one assist.
Brayden plays for the Highland Outlaws traveling select baseball team and he first was noticed while playing in a JP Sports tournament in Chatham. The opposing coaches in each game picked an MVP for each game and Brayden was selected.
He then went on to play in the All-Star Game in Chicago in August, where he was picked by a scout to represent Illinois in Disney.
“Brad (Bircher) and myself are very proud of Brayden for always giving 110 percent and he has a big heart on and off the field,” said Jamie Bircher, Brayden’s mother. “He really gets into his sports because he is very passionate about them. Big thanks go to my parents (Ron and Janet Eilers) as his grandpa is the one who went above and beyond to get the sponsors for Brayden.
“A special thanks go out to all the sponsors for helping with getting Brayden to the event.”
Brayden plans to try out for the Highland Middle School baseball team next fall.
Brayden’s grandparents, Ron and Janet Eilers as well as Jane Bircher, all of Highland, are proud of Brayden.
Janet Eilers said she always told her kids and grandchildren that hard work and determination pay off.
“Brayden is a very determined young man with all heart,” Eilers said. “His parents really don’t talk about his heart problem. They don’t know how many years he’ll be playing sports. But that is not stopping this boy. Brayden knows that he’ll have to have another heart surgery someday. But for now, the kid is living his dream with sports.”