Young athlete signs NLI to UIndy baseball

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The University of Indianapolis baseball team added to its roster on Feb. 11, after Owen Mahan signed his National Letter of Intent.


Owen’s parents, his nurse, Owen himself and Head Baseball Coach Gary Vaught answer questions from the media.
(Photo contributed by Ryan Thorpe)


The press conference to announce the signing took place inside a classroom at the Ruth Lilly Fitness Center. The room was filled with players, coaches, Great Lakes Valley Conference Commissioner Jim Naumovich, Owen’s nurse and his parents, Jim and Susan Mahan, as he signed his letter.

The event began with an introduction of  seven-year-old Owen by Head Baseball Coach Gary Vaught.

“We signed him because of a couple things. One, he is a fast little player; he runs fast. He’s got the heart of gold. He’s got strength that I hope all of us can have, the way he has, someday. He’s going to make our ball club a lot better. He’s going to be there with us on the road and in [our] hearts,” Vaught said. “Owen comes from a tremendous family here. [He has received] tremendous support over the things he’s had to go though, and we only expect him to be our lucky piece this year.”

After the signing, the floor was opened for the baseball players and media representatives to ask Owen questions. He provided laughter for the audience with each response.

Owen was given the nickname “Big Daddy Jack Rabbit” by Vaught and was given a t-shirt with the name on it during the question-and-answer session. Owen said that he will wear the number one for the team during this upcoming season.

“We are so glad to have Owen on our ballclub,” Vaught said. “His smile touches you, and I hope everyone in this room understands that [the way he lives] every day of his life ought to be the way we live it, because he lives it to the fullest. Every time we’re out there fighting, we’re going to be fighting for you, Owen.”

Owen was introduced to the UIndy baseball team through TeamIMPACT. TeamIMPACT is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve kids facing life-threatening diseases or injuries by creating team-based support systems and matching them up with college and university athletic teams to provide them with a support network.

Naumovich shared a few words with the audience and gave Owen a few things to take home with him.

“This is a great day for the conference. We are very happy to have UIndy participating in TeamIMPACT,” Naumovich said. “You [the baseball team] will get as much or more out of it, with your experience, than Owen will. And that’s a great part of being a college student-athlete—to give back but also learn from the young guys that are coming up behind you.”

Owen’s parents were excited for him to have the opportunity to be able to be a part of TeamIMPACT and the Greyhounds’ program. They hope that through this opportunity Owen will gain self-esteem along with role models who will make better experiences for him.

“Owen was burned—98 percent of his body—and they [the doctors] gave him a zero percent chance of survival,” Susan Mahan said. “And they told us he would never walk, and he can walk. And they told us he would never talk, and he can talk. And he goes through his day with a smile.”

Vaught said he is extremely pleased to have Owen as a part of the team and believes it is important for his student-athletes to be involved with opportunities such as this one to know the importance of giving back, if they know nothing else.

“I think he [Owen] is going to be a big inspiration to our team,” he said.

Susan Mahan said that she and her husband are excited for this opportunity.

“This is a big opportunity, and our hope for him is that when he does notice he looks different, his self-esteem is so high that it’s not going to matter to him,” she said. “And we think this baseball team is going to help with that.”


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