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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

9-year-old battling cancer gifted Pirates experience of a lifetime

Toren+Mehta+and+his+father+Vinay+Mehta+pose+for+a+picture+on+the+baseball+field+at+PNC+Park+on+Saturday%2C+May+25.%0A
Courtesy of Vinay Mehta
Toren Mehta and his father Vinay Mehta pose for a picture on the baseball field at PNC Park on Saturday, May 25.

On April 14, 2024, Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen sent a rocket of a baseball into left field at Citizens Bank Park to notch the 300th home run of his career. On the receiving end of the career-defining slam was 9-year-old Toren Mehta and his father Vinay — two Pirates fans watching their favorite team take on their hometown Phillies. 

Toren ultimately made the decision to return the ball to his favorite player without asking anything in return.

“I would say that one thing I think is important to highlight here is that what started all of this was Toren making the decision to do the right thing, which is giving the ball back without asking for anything in return,” Vinay said. “Good things happened because of that.” 

In the following days, The Pitt News released a story detailing a hidden element of the special moment. Toren was in the midst of a battle with acute leukemia. Pirates owner Bob Nutting caught wind of the story and, subsequently, personally reached out to the Mehtas and invited them to a game. 

On May 25, 2024, the Pirates hosted the Atlanta Braves. Toren, Vinay and their family and friends were all in attendance. The Pirates treated Toren to an unforgettable day.

“I want to thank everyone who came to support us,” Toren said. “It was amazing, all the things that [the Pirates] did — from meeting Cutch, and then throwing the first pitch — it was all amazing.” 

The day’s festivities started with McCutchen and Toren reuniting — although this time, the Bucc’s all-star had a gift for Toren. The Pirates had cleared a space in the locker room where Toren’s own jersey — equipped with his name and favorite number, 23 — was waiting, along with an art piece showcasing the gloves worn by McCutchen in the historic at-bat. 

Courtesy of Vinay Mehta

Toren described the feeling of seeing his own jersey hung up in the locker room and the inspiration behind the number on the back. 

“It was really cool it actually had my name on it,” Toren said. “I chose [23] because it is my favorite number. I like the number, and a bunch of famous sports players wear it, like basketball, Michael Jordan and LeBron James … I like the number and how it looks.”

Next, Toren met his extended family and friends on the field to play catch with players warming up and watch batting practice. The children were able to take pictures, hang out and get autographs from the Pirates’ biggest names, such as Paul Skenes, Oneil Cruz and many others.

When it came time for the first pitch, it was none other than Toren on the mound and Vinay ready to catch at home plate. Thousands of fans watched on as the Mehtas shared this special moment.

Toren described the nerves that came with throwing the first pitch in front of a huge crowd, and relayed how he practiced a few times beforehand.

“It was really cool,” Toren said. “I was a little nervous, but I was really happy that I was able to get it to the glove.” 

Vinay gave insight into the moment from his perspective. 

“It was a really cool experience,” Vinay said. “Usually, when someone throws the first pitch and I see it on TV, I’m used to the catcher on the team or a player on the actual team catching it, but the Pirates had asked me if I would be interested in catching the ball from Toren, I said, ‘That would be great.’”

“[I was] definitely a little nervous down there,” Vinay said. “We play catch a lot and hardly ever drop the ball, but in front of all those people, it definitely adds a lot of pressure. But he made a good throw, and I caught it, so it worked out.”

After the pitch and the fanfare of applause, Toren and Vinay joined the rest of their group in a box to enjoy a 4-1 Pirates victory. 

Since his diagnosis, this experience was one of the first times that Toren was able to get back on a baseball field. For the 9-year-old, who is set to finish treatment in February of next year, this is just the beginning of his return to his baseball career. Toren said that he will most likely play in the fall. 

Toren’s aunt said that the game was an opportunity for their family and friends, who live in different places ranging from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and even Virginia, to come together. Toren and Vinay each shared what this meant to them.

“It was really exciting that they were all there to come and support me,” Toren said. “I was really happy.”

“It was really great having a lot of our family come and be able to join us in such a special experience and also have some friends over as well,” Vinay said. “People were genuinely excited to come for Toren, that was just nice to see.”

“Two of his cousins were actually on the field before the first pitch … my brother’s son — he’s only about a year and a half older than Toren — gave him a really nice pep talk before the first pitch,” Vinay said. “It was really cool to see that, and I think it really probably helped a lot.” 

Whether in baseball or in his journey with cancer, Vinay shared how this experience will impact Toren for the rest of his life, as well as serve as a great lesson for others. 

“I think it brings out the good in people, and you see that in the Pirates organization,” Vinay said. “Everyone who we interacted with, from Andrew McCutchen to some of the other players … really every single staff member and every single player that we interacted with treated us with nothing but respect and dignity, and I think it was genuine feeling on their end.”

 

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About the Contributor
Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer
Aidan Kasner is a first-year student studying Media and Professional Communications.