HIGHLAND | The Seattle Mariners used to hold "Jay Buhner Day."
During its opening day ceremonies May 11 at Homestead Park, the NWI National Adult Baseball Association held "Will Forrester Day."
The results were the same: People ended up with lighter heads.
Like the former major league slugger, Will is mostly bald ... except the Lowell 4-year-old didn't choose the style.
"It all started with an earache," Will's father Jesse Forrester said. "Then he had a nosebleed that wouldn't stop."
After several blood tests and check-ups, Will was diagnosed with leukemia.
"You just want your kid to grow up to be a normal kid, to live a normal kid's life," said Jesse, a former varsity catcher for Lowell who plays for the Blue Jays in the league, which held a 50/50 raffle to benefit Will as well as public head shavings in his honor.
It was bittersweet watching the precocious Will, who was supposed to throw out one of the first pitches but had other things in mind, amused by the fuss surrounding him. He played an apt foil to Rusty the RailCat, and wasn't too sure he wanted to switch from the Cubs jersey he came there with to the personal name-embroidered Blue Jays jersey the league gave him.
"He doesn't know he's sick," Jesse said. "He's had four spinal taps, but he was sedated during them.
"The only thing that bothers him is being hungry in the morning. He's not supposed to eat before his treatments. Other than that, he's often a happy kid with a big smile on his face."
This is the league's 10th season. The surviving wife and mother of league founder Steve Carpenter were present to help hand out awards for players and supporters who have been there since the beginning.
"This was very time consuming for him, but he loved baseball," Jill Carpenter said of her husband, who died of cancer four and a half years ago. "I supported him. It took some patience and understanding, but I'm sure the spouses from the other players here are just the same."
Fran Carpenter, Steve's mother, remembers how baseball helped her son and her husband bond through a common interest.
"Charles used to be a catcher, too," Fran said of her husband, who recently passed away. "He would take Steve to Sox games, and we would watch Steve when he played Little League and Babe Ruth.
"We didn't get out to watch too many (NWI NABA) games, but it's great to see they've been able to keep this going."
As tradition, the champion from the year before (Giants) played the runner-up (Blue Jays) in first game of the season. The Giants won 2-0.
"We were champions two years ago, so we're looking to get back on top," said Blue Jays player Lennon Reyes, who is in his second year as league president.
"We have 12 teams this year, six in each league," said Reyes, an East Chicago native and Hobart resident. "Last year we had 14, but with two teams being absorbed, I believe the league is stronger and less watered down."