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Bandits' Courtney Gano Surprises Young Fan With Bat Bag, Gear

(Photo Submitted by Jay Zawaski)

Courtney Gano spent some time Friday morning going through her gear. She separated it into two bags, one to keep and one to give away. She didn’t know who she would give the gear to, but felt like she would know when the time was right.

“At the end of the day, it’s material things, and if I can make more meaning to them or for someone, then I would love to do that,” Gano said in a phone interview with Softball America. “I thought, I don’t know who this will go to but my heart will tell me.”

Gano was on the field taking batting practice prior to the start of Friday night’s game in the National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series when her eyes found a nine-year-old fan, Addie Zawaski, who was sitting with her dad, Jay.

“They were sitting right behind home plate and he was super engaged with her,” Gano said. “It made me think of my dad and when he would take me to baseball games when I was young. I asked her for her name and I just wanted to interact with her. She was just so cute and you could tell she was nervous, but I told her to find me after the game.”

Addie, along with her dad, mom, great-grandmother and friend, went through the autograph line after the game and found Gano. The Chicago Bandits infielder quickly recognized Addie and told her she had something for her. Addie told her she wouldn’t move, and when Gano returned, Addie couldn’t believe it.

Gano set a bat bag down in front of Addie.

“I thought she was just giving me a t-shirt,” Addie said. “Under the t-shirt was a bunch of gear, so I asked her if she wanted me to just take one thing, and she told me to keep the whole bag. I was overwhelmed because I got all this stuff from someone that I only met one time.”

“I actually had to clarify it with her,” Jay said when describing what happened. “You actually want her to take the whole thing? Are you sure? I couldn’t believe it. Have you seen the bag? It’s enormous. It was overwhelming for me, so I can’t imagine how Addie felt. This was above and beyond.”

Inside the bag were batting gloves, cleats, protective arm and leg pads, shirts and hats. Addie also got to keep the bat bag and a bat.

“I gave my friend a shirt and batting gloves,” she said about the gift. “She said she was going to sleep in them because she loved them so much.”

Addie is in her third year of playing softball and just finished her first season of all-stars. Just like Gano, she learned to love softball by watching baseball games.

She's grown up watching the Chicago Cubs and her great-grandmother, Mary Cook, once tried out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League at Wrigley Field during World War II.

“It was such a great experience from beginning to end, even without the crazy gift at the end. We all had a great time,” Jay said. “The atmosphere was great, the crowd was great, it was just a lot of fun.”

When Jay tweeted out a photo of his daughter with Gano and the bag of gear late Friday night, he wasn’t sure who would see it, but it caught fire within minutes.

The photo captured everything that Gano wants to represent when it comes to why she plays the game.

“I play softball so I can serve,” Gano said. “It’s so much more than me and so much more than the team. I kind of had to take a deeper look into myself as to why I play this game. It’s not for the stats, it’s not for anything like that. It’s for the relationships we get to build on and off the field with people. Hearing stuff like that, that she was able to pass it on, it’s reassuring that (the bag) went to the right person.”


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