York College signs 8-year-old player

Patrick Strohecker

When Mitch Pollock walked into one of the rooms at York College's Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center on Monday, the entire men's lacrosse team chanted his name.

He was there to sign his letter of intent to become a member of the Spartans' lacrosse program, and the newest teammate to the players chanting his name. Except, when the spring season rolls around, Pollock won't suit up for the team, but rather, just be a spectator. After all, he's only 8 years old, so he's still far from being old enough to play at the college level, but even when he does get to that age, chances are, he still won't play for York College.

An infant's battle: Since the day Pollock was born, three months premature and at just 2 pounds, 4 ounces, he's dealt with several health issues stemming from blood clots he developed in his kidneys. He spent a month at Women's and Babies Hospital in Lancaster before being transported to Hershey Medical Center after the blood clots were discovered in his kidneys. When he arrived at Hershey, the Pollock family was told that doctors didn't expect Mitch to make it through the night. They thought his kidneys would stop functioning.

"The nurses and doctors and staff at Hershey Medical Center are off-the-charts talented, and even the one doctor said we got a little lucky too," Mitch's father, Doug, said.

After pushing through that night, Mitch spent the next two years on dialysis before reaching the age of 2, when he could undergo a kidney transplant, which he received from his mother, Jennifer. However, because the transplanted kidney was placed in Mitch's abdomen, rather than the backside of his body, like most people, Mitch can't really play sports, for fear of any contact damaging the kidney. Over time, the kidney will re-position itself into the proper place, but for now, it restricts him from playing any sports.

York College lacrosse coach Brandon Childs fits Mitch Pollock with a team jersey during a press conference at the school Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. Mitch, 8, of Hellam Township, signed a "letter of intent" during the event to become the newest member of the team.

Still, that hardly stopped him from taking part in some activities for fun. Mitch loves riding four-wheelers and the sport of lacrosse, which he grew up around thanks to his father coaching it and his older brother, Sam, playing it. During the news conference on Monday, when one of the Spartan players asked Mitch who his hero was, he said his older brother, who is a senior at Eastern York High School and will play NCAA Division III lacrosse at Lycoming College.

"I was actually surprised," Sam said. "I thought he was going to say his mom was his hero because she gave him his kidney, but me being his hero made me feel very humble because he's gone through so much more than I have and, honestly, he's my hero. ... All I've been for him is someone who encourages him and a role model he can look up to."

Team Up For 1: Mitch and his family didn't go searching for the York College lacrosse team. Nor did the Spartans seek out the Pollacks.

Enter the Team Up For 1 Foundation, a relatively new program in Stevenson, Maryland, that places kids with health problems with college athletic programs. The kids range in age from 5-18.

Team Up For 1 has only been around for a little more than a year, but has already organized the adoption of kids by athletic teams at the University of Maryland, Towson, Stevenson College and Johns Hopkins. According to the foundation's executive director, Charlie Levine, York College is the first school outside of Maryland to adopt a kid.

The Pollock family originally found out about Team Up For 1 through Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the family goes every three months for routine checkups. Mitch's doctor put the family and the foundation in touch with each other. Because of the family's love for lacrosse, it was felt that a lacrosse team would be a good fit for Mitch.

"York College was the closest (school)," Doug said. "I know it's a growing, up-and-coming program, and I think the coach has had a couple pretty good years the last couple years, so we told (the foundation), 'Hey, let's reach out to York College lacrosse,' and the people from Team Up For 1 took over from there."

Instant excitement: When Spartans head coach Brandon Childs first informed his players that they would be adopting Mitch, the team was instantly excited.

"Our guys are pretty enthusiastic about anything," Childs said. "But, to tell them that we were going to be able to add someone like Mitch to our team, they were pretty enthusiastic."

During the news conference, when Mitch signed his letter of intent to become a member of the York College lacrosse team, Childs said that Mitch exemplified the four pillars that he looks for in any recruit — talent, a vision to be a difference-maker, a love for lacrosse and high character.

Before Mitch came in for his news conference, Levine made sure to instruct some of the players on their role on being a big brother to Mitch. They will take Mitch out for team functions, such as bowling and going to the movies, as well as attend any of his birthday parties. Mitch can also attend any practices and games he wishes, as long as his parents are OK with it.

As for his health, for the past few years of his life, Mitch has been relatively healthy. He receives a growth hormone every night, except Saturdays. He also gets blood drawn once a month to make sure his body is properly accepting the kidney. Plus there are the routine visits to Johns Hopkins.

Outside of that, he's living as close to a normal life as any other second grader. Only now, he has an entire team of college lacrosse players supporting him.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com