PCHS boys’ lacrosse plays for Jakob
Miners welcome Jakob with open arms as a member of the team
The evening wasn’t unlike any other home contest when the Park City High School boys’ lacrosse team hosted East High School on April 21.
The brisk spring air began to trickle in as the sun set over the mountains, while the fans, some in groups and others alone, filed into the bleachers at Dozier Field. Lacrosse balls were flying through the air left and right, with players from both teams out on the field warming up as the typical pump-up music blared over the PA system.
Then, one young fan, Jakob Satterfield, made his way through the archway that reads “Dozier Field” with his mother, Leslie Satterfield, by his side. Wrapped in his Superman blanket to brave the elements, Jakob made his way across the side of the turf field to the bleachers on the home side, where the rest of the Miner faithful sit.
Jakob is not your average fan. Not only is he Park City’s biggest cheerleader, though the game against East was the first of the season he attended, he is also an honorary member of the team.
“They were excited to go,” Tom Satterfield, Jakob’s father, said. “I think almost every team member sat with him and visited with him throughout the game.”
Although Jakob would love to have a better game-attendance record, the 9-year-old has had to stay off the bleachers while battling a rare form of a cancerous brain tumor called atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, ATRT for short. Between all the treatments and rounds of chemotherapy — he will receive his fourth round in a couple of weeks — Jakob has been positive through it all.
“No matter what, he is positive,” said Heidi Black, a parent of lacrosse player Charlie Black. “No matter what he’s having done or how hard the treatments are or how sick he is, he has a positive outlook. It’s unbelievable.”
In addition to being a parent of a Miner, Heidi Black is also board member for the Casey Powell World Lacrosse Foundation, which reaches out to sick or injured lacrosse players. Before the lacrosse season started, Casey Powell, the nonprofit’s co-founder, was in Utah visiting Heidi Black and others.
When Powell heard of Jakob’s story, he wanted to meet the 9-year-old, who was just getting into the sport of lacrosse before his diagnosis.
After Powell told Heidi Black of Jakob’s story, she felt it necessary to share it with the Park City board members. Jerry French, the board’s Committee Chair, immediately knew he wanted Jakob to be a part of the team.
“We were really fortunate to be introduced to Jakob and his family,” French said. “As a board member, we’re trying to find opportunities to allow our young men to grow on and off the field.”
The more French got to know Jakob and his story, the more he knew the young boy needed to be part of the program. Jakob represents the pillars of the culture French aims to build at Park City: service and persistence.
“These two pillars of our culture both have really strong ties with our relationship with Jakob and his family, particularly the persistence” French said, adding Jakob is a warrior.
“He’s persisting through this,” French continued. “He gives our boys hope and puts their problems and challenges and fears in perspective that I don’t think any other relationship can.”
New member of the team
It didn’t take long for the players, following their coaching staff’s footsteps, to want to include Jakob. After learning about his situation, the captains of the team –Josh Hales, Noah Meyer and Charlie Black — along with members of the board and some of the coaches, made the trip down the canyon to Salt Lake City, where the Satterfield family lives, for a visit.
“They gave him some things, like a jersey and a lacrosse stick,” Tom Satterfield said. “It’s just been really motivating for Jakob.”
Those players went back and spread the word to the rest of their teammates, and soon enough, everybody wanted to meet Jakob. They knew his situation was delicate, so meeting him face-to-face was going to be tough to arrange, but the Miners came up with a different idea.
“Earlier in the year, we all wrote him notes,” Meyer said. “Everybody wrote a note to him. Every player did, just saying, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about you. We’re here for you.’ Things like that. We [also] gave him a signed ball that all the Varsity players signed with their number. I guess he cherishes that.”
Jakob cherishes the signed ball, along with all the gifts given to him by the Park City lacrosse program, to the point that he doesn’t want to be apart from them.
“He brings some of his stuff with him when we come up to the hospital for his treatments,” Tom Satterfield said. “He’s got his little backpack that he puts his treasures in and a lot of the lacrosse things that he’s received from Park City is part of that.”
Players are also sporting #play4jakob stickers on the players’ helmets, truly dedicating this season to their new teammate. While the Miners understood and were sensitive to Jakob’s condition, they truly hoped he would make it to a game during the season.
When the players saw Jakob walk through the gates at Dozier Field on April 21, the sideline was buzzing more than usual.
“Our kids were so excited that he had actually made it to the game,” Meyer said. “They just wanted to be around him, which was cool.”
Knowing Jakob’s state, Meyer thought it would be best to ease him into the environment. In order to do that, the team opted to visit Jakob in groups, sending four to five players at a time to go and talk with him.
They shared stories, talked about the game and were able to finally catch up with a teammate they felt they knew all season long.
“That was really a highlight of the year for us,” Meyer said. “For me, looking up in the stands and seeing our kids, every one of them, going up and excited about spending time with Jakob, was really a highlight for us.”
As the game went along, the Miners dominated against East, like they do against most of their in-state competition. By halftime, the scoreboard read 9-0 and no one was more excited than Jakob, who watched the game by Black’s side.
“He was so enthusiastic,” Heidi Black said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Boy, we’re just destroying this team.’ There was a huge smile on his face. He was so happy to be there. He said that several times.”
Jakob comes from a family of mostly women: he has five sisters, his mother and even two female cats. It’s safe to say that Jakob, along with his father, is slightly outnumbered when it comes to the family’s genders.
But thanks to the relationship he has with the Park City boys’ lacrosse program, Jakob feels his family adopted a handful of new brothers.
“It’s like an extended family with adopted brothers,” Tom Satterfield said. “It’s just a great thing for him. He enjoys the game and the sport, and to be able to visit and hang out and talk with some of the guys, it’s a really cool thing for him.”
Jakob is still in the early stages of his battle with cancer, but the family is hopeful they’ll find out more information when he goes in for an MRI on his head and spine in a couple of weeks. The hope is that the young boy will be able to get better to the point that he could potentially play lacrosse again, or at the very least, be able to be around the Park City program more.
As with any medical condition, things are far from certain. But Jakob, who continues to maintain his inspirational attitude to this day, is pretty positive of what the outcome will be.
“He’s told us, and others, that he’s going to be a survivor,” Tom Satterfield said. “We’re very proud of him.”
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The Youth Sport Alliance is planning on expanding its program through the rest of the county, and, depending on a grant from the Women’s Giving Fund, adding two part-time positions.