Zack Chowansky spent last weekend representing Pennsylvania. The North Schuylkill senior was one of three local players in the Big 26 Baseball Classic, essentially the baseball version of the Big 33 football game. The kids from the Commonwealth swept three games against Maryland and Chowansky made a friend for life.
On a big stage, Zack Chowansky stepped up big in the Big 26 Baseball Classic. There was tough competition and college scouts on hand in Harrisburg, but the baseball is secondary to the buddy program. Each athlete is paired with a child, teen or young adult with special needs. The Ringtown-native's buddy was 10-year-old Aidan Corby, who happened to also be from Schuylkill County.
"Aidan was my buddy and he's from St. Clair and I'm like, 'oh, that's so cool!That's great!'" Chowasnky said. "I met him and we kind of just clicked together, talked so much about baseball and what he liked, his passions. It was like we were brothers as soon as we met."
Aidan is autistic. He's not the most talkative, but the bond he built with his buddy doesn't need many words.
"He likes me," Corby said. "I like Zack. I like him. He hits home runs."
Like the one he hit Sunday in the series finale.
"When I hit it, I knew it was gone," Chowansky recalled. "I just saw all my teammates run out and jumping and screaming and the whole stadium erupted when I hit it. It was honestly one of the best feelings in my whole life."
Chowansky went on to be named the player of the game. He got his home run ball back and what does he decide to do with it?
"I knew I couldn't keep it," he said. "I saw Aidan. I gave him a fist pump and I'm like, 'I just got to give it to him. I have to.' After the game, went over, got the ball, got a marker, signed it. I just felt like that was the right thing to do."
The home run ball reads: To my friend, Aidan. Zack Chowansky. 3-run homer.
"Really happy.," Corby explained. "I just want to hold it, just hold it."
"When he did it, I looked down and I said, 'is that the home run ball?'" Aidan's father Joe Corby recalled. "He goes, 'Yeah, it was the home run ball' and I said, 'Zack, this is your home run ball in one of the biggest games of your life probably, why not keep it?' and he goes 'No. No. I want Aidan to have it.'"
A gesture bigger than baseball, and a buddy for a lifetime.
"I know in ten, 15, 20 years, hopefully I'm still in contact with Aidan," Chowansky said. "The memories, the friendship that we made that weekend and everything moving forward, honestly. He's going to cherish it."