HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With four bases and nine players on one field, baseball is truly a team sport. But on the pitcher's mound, a player can elevate above others.
"He loved being the pitcher, because he was a center of attention," Kellie Price said of her son Joseph - who was known for the change-up pitch he'd often throw during League City Little League competition.
"His coaches nicknamed him 'Dirty Change' because he had one dirty change-up pitch," Jeremiah Price, Joseph's father, explained.
Less than three weeks after throwing his 'dirty change' while pitching in a July 4th tournament, Joseph was diagnosed with liver cancer. October 30, 2016, Joseph Fleming passed away. He was 10 years old.
"After he passed, I knew I had to do something for other families who may not have a huge baseball family to rally behind them," Kellie recalled.
Joseph loved baseball more than anything. The sport - and his favorite team - were part of his final days and his lasting legacy.
Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., moved by Joseph's cancer battle and baseball passion, built a connection with the family. He'd visit Joseph in the hospital and at school. He even spoke at his memorial service.
"I don't know that Lance truly understands how much it meant to us and our family and our city - everybody around us," Kellie said while fighting back tears.
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As a way to celebrate their late son, Kellie and Jeremiah founded Joseph's Warriors. The organization raises and then donates money - along with goodie bags and quilts - to families with children fighting cancer in the greater Houston area. The top fundraiser for Joseph's Warriors is the Dirty Change Classic, a baseball tournament held annually at the League City Sportsplex. Games are played on Joseph Fleming field.
"He literally played baseball until he couldn't," Kellie said of her son.
True to the organization's mission to support those battling cancer, Joseph's Warriors welcomes Be the Match to its baseball tournament every year. At the event, a bone marrow registry drive is held - during which cheeks are swabbed in hopes of finding a match to help cure someone diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers. Jeremiah was swabbed at the tournament in 2018. A year later, he received a life-altering call: he was a match for a total stranger.
"After I hung up, I looked at my phone," Jeremiah said of the phone call. "I was like: okay, well is this real?"
Real was the opportunity for Jeremiah's donated blood stem cells to save the life of a total stranger in California battling leukemia. And real were the emotions when we visited with that total stranger, Donald Anderson, via Zoom.
"It's very emotional - every time I think of that," Donald shared while crying. "I just think about how blessed I am to have him as a donor for me."
Jeremiah is more than a donor to Donald. The two are now dear friends - meeting often.
Lance McCullers has also remained close to the family - donating to Joseph's Warriors, and even gifting autographed Mother's Day cleats to Kellie.
"Losing a child, your biggest fear is that people will forget," Kellie revealed. "You don't ever want anybody to forget that he was here."
A life lost, a life saved with baseball as the backdrop. And Joseph Fleming, once pitching in the center of the diamond - now has a different view.
"I know he's got a front seat to all of this," Kellie said of Joseph. "Yeah, he's got a hand in a lot of things - I know that for sure."
To learn more about Be the Match or register as a donor, visit My.BeTheMatch.org/ABC13.
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