As the smallest “member” of the South Amboy High School baseball team, 4-year-old Michael Grzankowski made the biggest impact.
“Our goal was to keep playing for Michael,” South Amboy head coach Dan Poulsen explained, noting his players were devastated following last week’s sectional quarterfinal loss to Shore Regional, which meant the Governors’ season came to an end.
“We knew time was running out that he’d be around for games, so we wanted to keep it going as long as possible.”
Michael was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a severe congenital cardiac defect that requires a series of three open-heart surgeries to correct. Michael underwent his first reconstructive operation six days after he was born, and had his second repair six months later. Michael will undergo his third open-heart surgery on Thursday at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which pioneered the life-saving intervention.
Prior to Saturday’s Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament final at Raymond J. Cipperly Field on the campus of East Brunswick Tech, Michael, wearing his official South Amboy jersey with a No. 1 on the back, and a Governors baseball cap, which every member of the team autographed, joined Poulsen and his players on the field to partake in a group photo as the ballclub received its Gold Division championship plaque.
Michael wore his gold and purple South Amboy jersey with the team nickname emblazoned across the chest and his white baseball cap with the gold brim bearing the high school’s initials in purple calligraphy to his pre-admission testing at CHOP last week.
He refused to remove the hat while getting bloodwork, an electrocardiogram and other tests.
“I asked Michael, ‘Why did you keep the hat on the whole time?’” Michael’s father, Mike Grzankowski said. “He told me, ‘They are my friends and they support me all the time, even when I didn’t want to do my tests.’
“The South Amboy coach and kids took him on and made him feel like he is really part of them. They did an amazing thing taking time out for this kid.”