Cancer kept grandma away from his college games, so here's what he did
Zach Seavers visited his grandmother at her Edwardsville home in March, about two weeks before she died.
He leaned into her bed, hugged her goodnight and told her "see you tomorrow at the game."
Others in the bedroom thought the 19-year-old right-handed pitcher was hoping against hope — Marilyn Seavers had stage 4 lung cancer. Radiation treatments and immunotherapy had made her much too weak to leave her house, but did nothing else to change the prognosis.
Still, Zach was determined his grandmother was going to see him pitch wearing a college uniform.
"We were told to get mom in a wheelchair, put her sunglasses on, and place her in front of her sunny bedroom window," said Vicky Richmond, Zach's aunt.
When the blinds went up the following afternoon, Marilyn Seavers was greeted with a pressbox view of her grandson and about a dozen of his gray-and-navy clad teammates from the Lewis and Clark College baseball team.
They had improvised a diamond in her backyard and were in formation for pregame introductions. Alyssa Seavers, her 16-year-old granddaughter, was among them.
"She shed some happy tears and sat there in disbelief," Richmond said of her mother. "I get choked up every time I think of it. What an amazing, loving gift these boys showed Zach and his grandma."
Zach threw a dozen or so warmup pitches to Lewis and Clark catcher and long-time batterymate Will Messer, then the team played an unrecorded number of innings using a plastic ball.
"Every guy who was there came out without hesitation," Zach said. "All of them are nice people, and it was really cool that they could come out and be with me and my family. Everybody had a lot of fun with it. I could see into her bedroom window, and there were smiles all around."
Marilyn Seavers was passionate about the St. Louis Cardinals and had once been a pitcher on the Towerview Baptist Church slow-pitch team in Shiloh. She also was an avid bowler.
But nothing bonded her to sports like her grandkids, Zach and Alyssa. Each was such a standout player in Edwardsville that she moved from her home in Fairview Heights to Madison County, where she could be closer to the action and pinch hit for the mother who had estranged herself.
"She was more than a grandma for me and my sister. We were like friends," Zach said. "We'd go to movies together, she took me shopping for homecoming, we played a lot of pranks on each other.
"Whenever we had a game, she was there."
Zach and Alyssa followed similar paths in baseball and softball, starting with T-ball and advancing through the youth league ranks. Then came traveling select teams and high school ball.
Marilyn Seavers was always along for the ride, trucking ball players from one tournament or another throughout the United States, making sure uniforms were cleaned, and always taking time for a game of catch.
That all ended with her diagnosis last fall. When treatments failed, she was sent home to the care of Southern Illinois Hospice.
"She never actually got to see me pitch in college," Zach said. "Whenever I started hearing that things were not good with her health, I thought of what I wanted to do."
Marilyn Seavers was with family when she died at her home on the morning of April 2. She was 78.
That last game was a parting wish, both for her and her grandchildren.
"It meant a lot to me to be able to pull that together for her," Zach said. "If I had a pair of dirty pants after a game, I'd give them to her and they'd come back spotless. Now that I have to wash my own pants, I really realize how much time and energy she put into supporting us.
"She did all that for us, so it was the least I could do for her."