Sometimes baseball isn't about wins and losses or hits, runs and errors. Sometimes it's about a little girl, the 5-year-old daughter of a Major League pitcher, fighting a devastating disease, involved in a battle that children her age shouldn't have to fight.
Little Kamila Vazquez was diagnosed with type 1 juvenile diabetes three years ago, and this brave youngster is beginning to understand that she's not like other kids, that everything she eats must be measured and monitored. Birthday parties where kids gobble candy, cake and ice cream are potential land mines for kids like Kamila.
"She knows," said Atlanta pitcher Javier Vazquez. "She always asks, 'Is this OK for me to eat?' She understands that we have to check everything she eats. She's doing good right now."
Vazquez had been traded by Arizona to the Chicago White Sox in December 2005 and was just settling in at Spring Training with his new team when Kamilla's symptoms first surfaced.
"She was thirsty all the time," Vazquez said. "There was frequent urination. We didn't know what was up. Then, one day, she threw up three times in 30 minutes. We took her to the hospital, and that's when she was diagnosed. One minute, she was a happy, healthy little girl, and then she was not.
"At the beginning, obviously, when you learn what it is, it's a shocker. It's hard to hear something like that. She was just 2 years old."
Vazquez has been a big league pitcher since 1998, a reliable right-hander accustomed to controlling the game when he is on the mound. There have been tours with Montreal, the Yankees, Arizona, the White Sox and now Atlanta.
He has been one of baseball's most productive pitchers over the last nine years, the only one to log 10 wins, 30 starts and 150 strikeouts in each of those years. Only Livan Hernandez has thrown more than Vazquez's 1,943 2/3 innings over that stretch. He passed 2,000 strikeouts for his career last season, and his 1,763 strikeouts over nine years coming into the season were second only to Randy Johnson's 2,096. He has struck out 200 batters in a season four times and 10 or more batters in a game 37 times.
All those numbers add up to nothing when it comes to his daughter's health. After the diagnosis, the pitcher accustomed to being in control on the mound suddenly had that characteristic taken from him. Now, doctors were in charge of his little girl's care.
His faith helped Vazquez through the crisis.
"I believe that God only puts things in your life that you can handle," he said.
Vazquez and his wife, Kamille, set about dealing with little Kamila's disease. They learned all they could about it, about how the immune system attacks the pancreas and its production of insulin, which regulates sugar levels when the bloodstream is compromised. They learned how to give their little girl the insulin she required.
Like many Major Leaguers, Vazquez had a charitable foundation dedicated to raising funds for a cause. Vazquez's benefited families with deaf children in his native Puerto Rico. Now the foundation had a new cause, sponsoring a "K's for Kids" fundraiser that was supported by the White Sox and raised thousands for diabetes research.
His trade last winter to Atlanta has put the fundraiser temporarily on hold, but he will resume the effort. It is too close to his heart to ignore.
Meanwhile, little Kamila Vazquez copes with her condition.
"She's in kindergarten, now," her father said. "She's an awesome little girl."
He knows his daughter faces an uncertain future.
"Right now, there's no cure for the disease," the pitcher said. "We're hoping, maybe sometime in the future, there will be a miracle. I pray for that."
Hal Bock is a freelancer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.