NEWINGTON - Simao Cabralâ€™s arm was aching. After being away from a pitcherâ€™s mound for two weeks due to injury, Mondayâ€™s starter for the Newington American Legion baseball team wasnâ€™t sure if he could finish out the seventh inning against Bristol.
At least he wasnâ€™t physically sure.
Emotionally, Cabral wasnâ€™t coming off the mound. Not with a 9-3 win just three outs away and not on what would likely be his last competitive baseball game.
And especially not with his mother, Maria, in the stands, watching her son pitch one last time before returning to Portugal to be with the rest of her family, who is set to care for her as she dealt with an aphasia diagnosis, an early form of dementia considered terminal. Cabral, who would be joining his mother on the trip to Portugal before returning to the United States, was pitching his last game for Newington, and he wasnâ€™t about to give up the ball until the final out was recorded.
â€śI popped a few Advilâ€™s to cover me,â€ť Cabral said, â€śThis was my last game. Everyone else here might never see [my mother] again. So I wanted to do this for her. I love her, and this is all for her. Everything I do is for her.â€ť
Maria, who watched from the top row of the bleachers, struggles to put together full sentences as her condition worsens, but she didnâ€™t need words on Monday afternoon. Nobody did. They just needed their eyes to watch Cabral toss a 1-2-3 seventh inning to finish a complete game victory. Everyone in the stands and the dugout knew who the farewell performance, and everything that preceded it, was for.
â€śThis whole season was for my mother,â€ť Cabral said.
The season that Cabral dedicated to Maria almost never happened. In the spring of 2018, when Cabral was cut from the Newington high school team as a junior, Cabral noticed that his mother was struggling to put sentences together. By autumn, when Cabral was deciding whether to give the high school team another try for his senior season, her condition worsened, and she was soon diagnosed with Aphasia, which affects parts of the brain that control language and communication. With his mother fighting a terminal illness, Cabral wasnâ€™t sure if he could fight for a spot on Newingtonâ€™s roster. Regardless of his decision, Newington high school head coach Ben Alaimo made sure Cabral knew the Indians were in his familyâ€™s corner.
â€śI was talking to [Alaimo], and me and him, even after last season, weâ€™ve always had a great bond,â€ť Cabral said. â€śI told him what was going on with my mom and he told me he was behind me no matter what, regardless if I was on the team or not. Before I told him all of this he told me he wanted me to try out again.â€ť
It was a tough decision for Cabral, until he thought about what another of season in the sun would mean for his mother, who would soon be heading back to Portugal as part of a family decision. The spring and early summer months would be Cabralâ€™s last days with Maria until at least Christmas, when he would be able to visit her again. That made his decision an easy one.
â€śA few weeks before tryouts, I didnâ€™t know if I wanted to come back and play,â€ť Cabral said. â€śBut then all of this stuff was happening with my mom, and I decided it would make her happy if I came out and played. Sheâ€™s seen me play all my life, and I felt like it would be one last thank you to her.â€ť
After falling short his junior year, Cabral entered tryouts for his senior season with much more to play for, and it showed. Cabral was back on the high school team after making the cut, and continued to play into the legion season despite the knowledge that the season would be cut short for him after Mondayâ€™s game against Bristol. That didnâ€™t matter. Cabral wanted to give his mother every chance to watch him play before she wouldnâ€™t be able to anymore, so he did whatever he could, all the way through the last pitch in the last inning of his last game.
â€śBaseball is a funny game,â€ť Newington legion head coach Bill DeBlasio said. â€śIt can bring people together. With all the stuff he has going on he stayed committed to the team. Thatâ€™s just awesome.â€ť
The commitment wasnâ€™t always easy. Visits to the doctor with his mother caused him to be late for a number of games and practices throughout the spring and summer seasons, but his understanding coaches and players made sure his time on the diamond was as easy and enjoyable as possible, while Cabral made sure his mother was enjoying herself in the stands. Even as his fatigue grew on Monday, Cabral was finishing his last game no matter what transpired on the field. What mattered to him was up in the bleachers, and he was going to make sure he walked off the mound to see a smile on his motherâ€™s face.
â€śIt was hard,â€ť Cabral said. â€śI just pushed through it, because I knew I loved baseball and I love my mom. I love the way she looks when Iâ€™m playing. I did it for her. Sheâ€™s helped me so much. Just having her here at my last baseball game meant the world to me. Especially after all weâ€™ve been through.â€ť
There will be more fights for Cabral and Maria as she continues to battle Aphasia in Portugal, but on Monday afternoon in Newington, Mariaâ€™s terminal illness wasnâ€™t weighing on the Cabral family. They were too busy finishing a final chapter in Cabralâ€™s baseball career that couldnâ€™t have been written without his motherâ€™s guiding hand, who he believes helped him through every pitch of his complete-game win.
â€śIt was like a story being told, and that was the best ending to the story,â€ť DeBlasio said. â€śIt couldnâ€™t have ended any better.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org