Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper hit 24 home runs at the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby on July 15 in New York City and one of them could have turned into a souvenir for 12-year-old Jaydon Whitehead of Upper Marlboro.
Jaydon, the winner of a Major League Baseball-sponsored “Breaking Barriers” essay contest, was allowed on Citi Field during the competition. When Harper’s home run landed into the bullpen, Jaydon grabbed the baseball and gave it to an 8-year-old boy he met earlier that night.
“Because he asked for it,” Jaydon said. “I did want it, but he seemed like he really wanted it.”
MLB Senior Coordinator Katie Ringel said the 8-year-old, Ian, was also on the field as a contest winner. He was scared to be there without his mother until he met Jaydon, Ringel said.
“He took him under his wing completely,” she said.
Those who know Jaydon said they weren’t surprised at the selfless gesture.
“That’s just like him,” said Jessica Alvear, Jaydon’s teacher at Imagine Foundations at Leeland Public Charter School in Upper Marlboro.
“He cares more about how people feel and that type of stuff,” said Anthony Whitehead, Jaydon’s father.
Jaydon, who is 4-feet-8-inches tall, wrote about the challenges he faces as an undersized baseball player in his award-winning essay.
“I have the courage to do anything anyone taller can do. One thing people know about me is that I am always willing to try,” he wrote.
Ringel said Jaydon’s essay won first place out of the 96 contestants because of the advice it offered to others.
“His demeanor, when we actually got to talk to him, it just kind of nailed the point home,” Ringel said.
What Jaydon lacks in height, he makes up for in leadership, Alvear said.
“He’s just a sweet kid. A quiet leader, but he leads by example,” she said. “He’s not one of those kids that has to be loud about his leadership abilities and capabilities.”
Alvear said he was a calming influence in the sixth-grade classroom.
“If there was tension between students, he would crack a quick joke, and it would be over,” she said.
While in New York, Jaydon participated in a tournament with his Prince George’s County RBI team, which consists of baseball players from Prince George’s County.
“He’s the youngest guy on the team, he’s the shortest guy on the team, but he’s one of the hardest working guys on the team,” said Calvin Massie, Prince George’s County RBI coach.
Jaydon said he enjoyed meeting baseball players from around the country, but being on Citi Field was his favorite part of the trip.
“I wish I could have kept the ball, but I’m still happy that I gave it to him,” he said.