If you attend an Indian Land baseball game you’ll probably run across a smiling five-year-old boy with a pair of blue glasses and a matching ball cap flopped over his head. He’s playing with toy firetrucks, or singing the Star Spangled Banner before the game. You’ll hear his voice from the P.A. box telling the crowd that No. 7, Daniel Gueldner, is leading off for the Warriors.
Indian Land baseball head coach Joey Robinson says Noah Fike is like no other human he’s ever met. Warriors’ first baseman Lawton Otte says the 5-year old has the knowledge of someone who has already been through life.
Noah was born prematurely, and suffered a stroke shortly after birth. The damage to his young brain led to cerebral palsy, affecting him from his knees, down. Walking is difficult so he leans on a walker to get around and visits physical therapy every day to strengthen his leg muscles.
Noah is a kindergartener at Pleasant Knoll Elementary in Fort Mill. His teacher there is Indian Land assistant baseball coach Jim Morris.
“Noah asked one day, ‘what is a team?’,” Morris said. “The time comes around he wants to be a part of a team. Obviously he’s 5 years old, and limited to what he can do, but he says, ‘what can I do to be a part of this team?’
“I told him we need people to do all kinds of things. Announce the game, clean the field, drag the field, mow the grass, parents who are great supporters. I said we need people to pray with the team before the game, and sing the national anthem.”
Noah had learned the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of the school year. Morris didn’t think much of it, but Noah volunteered to sing it before a game.
They struck up a deal: if Noah sang the anthem before Indian Land’s matchup with Hopewell on March 31, he’d officially be part of the team. Morris said they practiced, and practiced, and practiced.
“He stood up there and belted it out like a pro,” Morris said.
Noah’s mom, Jenny Fike said her son loves the song and sings it constantly for people.
“I put my hand over my heart and somebody holds my walker so I don’t move,” Noah said. Noah paused and looked toward the field, put his tiny hand over his chest and belted out the lyrics, “Oh say can you see...”
Fike said her son has grown in confidence since joining the Warriors. He still uses a walker but is not afraid to stand up, take a few steps, fall down, then get back on his feet and try again.
“Even though he’s younger than us, I see him as a role model,” said Otte. “I like his attitude. He’s always positive and going out to get it.”
Indian Land is vying for a spot in the playoffs with a 13-9 record going 7-2 in conference, and Noah’s positive energy has keyed the team’s success. He comes up with a “thought of the day” to give his teammates inspiration, like “safe, safe, safe.”
Noah didn’t know what it meant when a Warrior base runner was deemed safe or out by the umpire, but after coaches explained he wanted to be sure the Warriors were called “safe.”
That week, he also wanted to make sure the team stayed “safe” on their hour-long bus ride to a game in Columbia.
And the third “safe” came from a signed poster the team made for him to hang above his bed in his room at home. Noah used to be afraid of the dark, but now when he goes to sleep there are 19 Warriors keeping him “safe.”
“Noah’s a fighter, he has been since birth,” said Robinson. “Seeing the way he fights reminds us how fortunate we are to be able to play, be healthy, and fight together as a team, truly knowing what really matters in life.”
The Fikes are confident their son will be able to walk on his own power one day. Noah is a fighter after all, although if you asked him he’d probably tell you he was a Warrior.