Photos courtesy Matt Brown
Cal State Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook is well known across the country as a relentless and proficient recruiter, so it comes as no surprise when the Titans roll out their blue-chip recruiting classes year after year.
This past October was no different, when Coben Swanson, who is fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (ALL), signed his Letter of Commitment at a press conference held at Goodwin Field.
“It started with [Assistant Director of Marketing and Fan Engagement for Cal State Fullerton Athletics] Becca Dobbs, who asked me about it over the summer and I said absolutely, do whatever you need to do, we’re in,” said Vanderhook.
Last Spring, Dobbs began to correspond with Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team. To the greatest extent possible, Team IMPACT children sign become members of the teams they sign with.
At the time, there were no matches in the immediate area but eventually, Dobbs got an e-mail with information about Coben, an eight-year old who is fighting ALL and recovering from a double craniectomy, “taking the road less traveled on his way to recovery” (via Team Coben Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TeamCoben/).
Dobbs reached out to Vanderhook. “Before I could finish sharing Coben’s story with him,” she recalls, “[Vanderhook] said ‘Done! How can we help and get him on our team?’”
A group of Fullerton players routinely visit Coben at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County or his home. “[They are] Coben’s full support team whenever he needs anything,” says Dobbs. “They’ll go over to his house, play with Legos or play video games. He’s way into Star Wars and loves his lightsaber. It’s super humbling for the kids and it gives his mom a break.”
“They’ll go over to his house and play Legos and do video games; he’s way into Star Wars and loves his light saber, they just go over and play with him,” said Vanderhook. “It’s super humbling for the kids and it gives his mom a break.”
“Coben’s story became news and that’s great, but otherwise nobody would know about it, and that’s okay,” added Vanderhook, whose Titan teams do about 1,000 hours of community service on an annual basis.
In addition to a GoFundMe.com page (https://goo.gl/MI18Cw), Titan baseball has promoted ‘Grind’ hats (50% of the proceeds go back to Coben’s family directly) that can be purchased at GrindHats.com/TeamCobenHat
“Those are our hats for the fall and it meshes perfectly with what we’re trying to do on the field every day. We went to one of the Dodgers’ playoff games as a staff and some guy sitting in the row behind us had one of the “Grind” hats on. We asked where he got it and he said he had seen Justin Turner do an interview in Washington wearing the hat!”
“Coben has changed the lives of not just Titan Baseball but all of Titan Athletics,” Dobbs adds. “[He] gained 35 brothers in Titan Baseball, but Titan Baseball gained an inspiration and someone to ‘Grind’ for.”
Becca Dobbs is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Fan Engagement for Cal State Fullerton Athletics
Coben resides in Yorba Linda with his mother, Brittany, little sister, Saffryn and his father, Jon.
In addition to his Facebook page, you can follow Coben’s journey on Instagram and Twitter (@teamcoben)