SAN DIEGO -- The Aztecs baseball team knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.
The late Tony Gwynn coached through his battle with cancer. Current outfielder Chad Bible survived Hodgkin's lymphoma to return the diamond.
And Friday, they signed another youngster involved in a fight for his life.
"I feel amazing. It feels so good to be up here and honored to be a part of the Aztecs' baseball team,” Derick Peterson said. Peterson suffers from nephrotic syndrome, a rare disorder that can cause his body to swell dramatically and often leads to kidney failure. But with Peterson’s zest for life, you’d have no idea he struggled with the disorder.
“He has impacted our program probably more than we are impacting his life, so it’s really cool to have him. ... We want him to be a part of this program as long as possible," Head Coach Mark Martinez told FOX 5.
The partnership was made possible by Team Impact, a nonprofit organization that teams children with chronic illnesses with college sports teams.
“My mom has been keeping this secret for like ... years now," Derrick said, laughing. "And finally, once she told me, I was like, 'What?!?' It’s been a great pleasure to have Team Impact partner up with me.”
Derrick's Mom, Jennifer Peterson, fought through her tears of joy to express how happy she was in the moment.
“Watching this partnership, seeing him happy and watching him in an environment where he doesn’t have to wonder about where his next blood draw is ... or wonder when he’s going to be hospitalized ... just seeing him on the field, smiling from ear to ear, has been a blessing.”
Derrick has been in remission for about a year now. He says he loves his new team: “They inspire me they lift me up, they’re so nice. I love them.”
Derrick also has his own locker room and is welcome to games any time he’s not at school or at his own baseball practice, where he plays second base. In about 10 years, he wants to attend SDSU, where he hopes to play first base and become an anesthesiologist.