On a Saturday morning in spring, after two and a half hours of defensive drills such as ground balls and fly balls in the infield, a convoy of 20 pickup trucks, each driven by a member of the Fighting Indians, Vero Beach High School’s varsity baseball team, arrived at a small one-story house in a development on the street behind Applebee’s. The caravan had the appearance of urgency, like that of Patrick Swayze in the film “Red Dawn,” mobilizing his high school classmates from his Chevrolet Cheyenne stepside to battle occupying Soviets.
In the case of the Fighting Indians, the mission was to help a single mom, Cassandra Hendon, and her four children, the youngest aged 7 and another a 13-year-old son awaiting a heart transplant, move all their belongings from one home to another. The need was immediate. Hendon, who works two jobs, had been told that the house she had been renting for three years had been put up for sale.
Coach Bryan Rahal, who is proud of the Fighting Indians and calls them “scrappy, tough and focused,” arrived to say a few words. “This family needs our help,” he said. “Let’s work as a team to make it happen.” Sporting their team colors and logos, the boys moved quickly, like base runners avoiding a tag, coordinating action as they do on the practice field and in a stadium before bleachers packed with fans. A move that might have taken days, even weeks, was accomplished in three hours: pots and pans, picture frames, coffee tables, computers, a dog bed, toys, mirrors, books, dressers, drawers, beds and a trampoline broken down and assembled again in the new location. Dozens of boxes, bedding, clothing, some of it on hangers, Christmas decorations and a generator taken to a storage locker and extra items donated to The Salvation Army.
The relocation of a family from one house to another by a baseball team happened because of 17-year-old Christopher James Auger, jersey No. 11 and “C.J.” to everyone who knows him. He had gotten the idea and mentioned it to his coach. Hendon already knew C.J. as the high school baseball player who donated his Home Run Derby earnings of $2,900 to the fund set up by the Children’s Organ Transplant Association for her son. She had nothing but praise for the entire team, especially C.J., who “showed great compassion.”