By Marty Gordon
Radford University has added two individuals to special letters of commitment for the baseball program. Head coach Karl Kuhn said 11-year-old Elan Balfour of Pensacola, Fla., and 15-year-old Conner “Smalls” Emmert of Charlottesville have joined the team.
Balfour is currently undergoing treatment for Stage 3 kidney cancer while Emmert has a rare form of dwarfism and recently had a metal rod placed in his back to help with posture and the ability to sit and stand straight.
Kuhn said the team and coaches have been in contact with the young men all fall.
“We have virtually had them at part of our practices and four of our seven Red-White World Series Games,” the head coach said. “Members of our team got to know both Elan and Connor intimately. Our players got to share their lives as college athletes while Elan and Connor got to share their courage and daily grind with us. Our team wanted to be there for both young men as they have displayed toughness and resiliency all fall.”
Balfour has been active in basketball, football and soccer but fell ill earlier this year. His parents noticed a bulge in his abdominal area. A short time later, doctors removed a cantaloupe-sized tumor along with his left kidney.
Doctors said he had a Wilms tumor, which is a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. It is also known as nephroblastoma and is the most common cancer of the kidneys in children.
The main treatment is surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Balfour and Emmert, along with their families, participated in a ZOOM call that included the unveiling of lockers for both youngsters in the baseball clubhouse. They were also given hats and jerseys to commemorate the moment.
“Today is a proud day for our program and team as we add the Balfour family and the Emmert family to our Radford baseball family,” Kuhn said. “Congratulations, Elan and Smalls, welcome and thank you for allowing us to join arms with you. #1086. Go Highlanders.”