Lower Burrell teen throws out 1st pitch
If baseball fans ever dream of meeting someone on their favorite team, odds are that person wears a uniform and is out on the field.
But when 17-year-old Chloe Jones got to meet a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it wasn't Andrew McCutchen or Gerrit Cole. It was Ty Brooks, the team's then director of player personnel.
“He's just as interesting,” Chloe said. “That's the cool part.”
About a year since last seeing each other, Chloe and Brooks were reunited at PNC Park on Friday night, where she got to throw the ceremonial first pitch to him before the Pirates' game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Chloe, of Lower Burrell and a senior at Burrell High School, met Brooks through the nonprofit “CCChampions,” which stands for Connecting Children with Champions. The group's founder, Sidney Kushner, stopped in her hospital room when she was being treated for osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, in March 2015.
Chloe was diagnosed in October 2014 after having pain in a knee. A tumor was found in her right leg.
Following surgery and chemotherapy, doctors declared her cancer-free in June 2015.
“I was confused,” Chloe said about her diagnosis. “I had never heard of something like this. I didn't know the difficulty it would involve and why it happened to me. I didn't know what I had done.”
That day she met Kushner at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Jones remembers she felt really bad and didn't want to talk with anybody. But she let Kushner, who was visiting kids in the hospital, come in.
She was wearing a Pirates shirt and told Kushner she loves watching baseball. He offered to connect her with someone from the team.
Brooks took her on a tour of PNC Park and to a game, where she got to meet her favorite player, Jordy Mercer.
But it was still Brooks who impressed her, even influencing her career plans.
“I never really knew what I wanted to do before that,” she said. “He told me about his job and what he does. It's a job I would love.”
Chloe is working on her college applications and looking at schools. She has her eyes set on studying business administration or operations at Fordham University in New York.
Brooks, 42, left the Pirates in February after six years with the team.
He is now senior director of Major League Baseball's new front office and field staff diversity pipeline program, which is meant to increase the pool of minority and female candidates for on-field and baseball operations positions. A Maryland native, he's working on moving from Pittsburgh's Point Breeze neighborhood to New York City.
Brooks, who has a 6-year-old daughter and an 18-month-old son, said he was inspired by Chloe.
“I see the courage she has shown and displayed. It's something that really made me very proud of her,” he said. “We all know high school is not the easiest time for everyone. To be going through such an experience while going to high school is extremely challenging.
“I'm proud about how she has gone about handling herself and how positive her outlook is.”
“It was so cool to have Ty catching the pitch and him just being there,” Chloe said by phone after her big moment. She watched the remainder of the game with Brooks in a PNC Park suite.
But when she left the field with Brooks en route to the suite, Chloe ran into Mercer.
“He recognized me and said ‘hi.' That was cool, too.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Mary Ann Thomas contributed to this report.