DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa.-- A 9-year-old boy from Lebanon Pennsylvania has been in and out of the hospital his entire life. A fighter, battling through the almost constant complications and surgeries making him stronger—and almost heroic.
Joseph Romero found his super power, he has the power to inspire others.
Matt LeCroy manages the Harrisburg Senators, “To see a kid come in who has been through a lot, it is just inspirational, and you need that, you need somebody to motivate you.”
Drew Ward plays 3rd base for the Senators, he says Joseph is a true inspiration, “It’s unbelievable, for sure he’s a superhero.”
See Joseph has had a lot of experience as a superhero, fighting.
His mother, Noemi Ramirez says she almost lost him when he was born, “He was so small. He was less than 2 pounds, and I was told he wasn’t going to make it.”
This is where his fight began. The tough guy has spent 100% of his life battling short gut syndrome, which led to other complications along the way.
Joseph spent the first 3 years of life in and out of the hospital, Noemi says it was at least 8 times every year.
Joseph doesn't remember much from his time at the hospital but remembers it was frequent, “I went through a lot. I’ve had lots of surgery.”
Joseph had to have roughly 85% of his small intestine removed as a baby.
Since then, he went through bouts of pneumonia, 17 in 18 months to be exact, that is when they discovered Joseph’s lungs were bleeding…
Noemi says, “Only one person in 1,250,000 get it, So he’s the lucky guy."
Now, a couple of years older, Joseph gets regular blood infections, and gets his nutrition through a feeding tube in his side.
“I go through lots of painful stuff,” Joseph says.
And those painful moments the young boy has endured and overcome like a champion is one of the reasons why the Harrisburg Senators knew he would be the perfect 26th man—making it official with the help of Children’s Miracle Network and a contract.
Matt says, “You see him when we signed him the first day, how excited he was to get a uniform and to be a part of it.”
Jose Marmolejos plays left field and first base on the team, he remembers the contract signing well. “That was a special day, that was really fun to make him our 26th man.”
Joseph has never been able to play sports because of his long list of health issues…
Noemi explains that her son is fragile, “His bones are not as strong as other kids, and you ‘re always worried about breaking a bone.”
So, the opportunity to learn from the team, without actually hitting the ball or catching pop-flys, was one both Joseph and Noemi knew would be life-changing.
“I want him to learn that, to be a team player, and enjoy because life is short,” Noemi says.
Joseph says being there makes him feel good, “It makes me feel great. It also makes me feel special that I get to go there.”
While the addition of Joseph to the team has helped Joseph feel like a normal 9-year-old boy, his presence has helped the team see life a little differently, and fight even when they feel like giving up.
Mario Lisson is the player coach for the Senators, “For us to look at him and maybe be able to appreciate what we do more now that we can see him... See him enjoying being here is actually even more for us than for him.”
Enjoying the team and FNB Field is an understatement—to the surprise of the players, the superhero secrecy code went out the window as the kid revealed his superhero prowess at a game.
Khayyan Norfolk is the utility player on the team, “You look familiar, and I was like, that’s Joseph, because you can’t with his costume on, you couldn’t see his face.”
So the secret is out… Joseph Romero is a superhero
His mom loved that Joseph was able to dress like a superhero with the guys, “It was very exciting because he looked like so little, a miniature strong man with the outfit.”
—and the guys aren’t cutting him any slack.
Mario says they treat Joseph like one of them, "We don’t care, whatever he’s going through, that’s on the side.”
Matt says, “He’s just got a great personality and he fits right in.”
While Joseph’s contract is coming to an end with the Senators’ season, his days battling aren’t even close to being over.
Now, Noemi says the task at hand is to keep him healthy, “We’re working really hard at keeping him out of the hospital.”
Dr. Mary Catherine Santos is the Director of Intestinal Failure at Penn State Children's Hospital, she says she is glad Joseph isn't frequenting the hospital anymore, but he's not in the clear, “During big growth spurts, kids that have short gut, where they don’t have as much as normal, have to fight and keep chugging along.”
And fight he will. As what superhero exactly, is to be determined—perhaps he will just be himself… the mini motivator.
“Motivation, inspiration… whatever you want to call it, he brings a lot of life to me,” Matt says.
Officials with the Harrisburg Senators say they hope to continue the partnership with Children’s Miracle Network, allowing kids to be part of the team.
The president of the team says Joseph is now part of the Senators family and is always welcome at FNB field.