Just over a decade ago, Penn baseball’s Kevin Eaise faced the unthinkable. Now, Eaise is nearly halfway through his junior year, looking ahead to his third season of Division I baseball.
Eaise grew up loving sports, with both of his parents being big sports fans. His interest in baseball was piqued by his father’s love of the Philadelphia Phillies. Eaise grew up playing basketball as well, but gave up the sport to focus on baseball by the time he got to high school.
A native of Monroeville, N.J., Eaise was just like any other baseball-loving kid, but then his health took an unexpected turn. After experiencing some double vision during a Little League game, his parents took him to the doctor to get checked out. Within a week, Easie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thankfully, the tumor was benign, but due to its location, it was also inoperable.
Eaise had his tumor treated at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, making his commitment to play baseball at Penn even more meaningful, less than a mile down the road from where Eaise was treated as a child.
“My family and I refer to it as coming full circle,” Eaise said. “I was in Philadelphia a lot growing up, so being able to play here now and living a short walk away from the hospital is something I don’t take for granted.”
Every few years, Eaise returns to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to get an MRI to make sure he is still completely healthy. Having made a full recovery, Eaise now does what he can to help children who are facing similar challenges.
“Every time we go back, my parents and I are reminded of how lucky I was with what I had,” Eaise said. “You can’t do much for many of these kids besides try to raise money because the research is what needs to be done and it is the only way that we’ll be able to save more of these kids in the future.”
Eaise and his parents founded the Eaise Family Foundation after he made a full recovery. Every year, the foundation sponsors a benefit to raise money for brain tumor research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Eaise’s charitable work has been remarkable, with the foundation raising hundreds of thousands of dollars toward cancer research.
Being so aware of the challenges that these children face, which most can’t even fathom, has also allowed Eaise to develop a unique kind of appreciation for baseball and an outlook on the game that is quite rare.
“You still get mad when you strike out and you still get mad when you give up runs,” Eaise said. “But at the end of the day, I realize how lucky I am to still be able to play because there are a lot of kids who are still in the hospital or who have passed away that have gone through much worse things than having a bad baseball game.”
Eaise mainly came out of the bullpen during his first two years at Penn, and his positive outlook on the game has served him well. In his freshman campaign, he recorded a 4.31 ERA in 16 appearances out of the bullpen, as well as 22 strikeouts. In a shortened sophomore season, Eaise appeared in two out of Penn’s eight games, making one start against Florida International, pitching 5.1 innings and surrendering no earned runs.
Eaise entered Penn as a freshman in 2018 with a slew of talented upperclassmen who had fortified themselves as starting pitchers. While Eaise was able to contribute substantially, he hopes to become a full-time starter in 2020 with many of the previous starters having graduated, including first team All-Ivy pitcher Christian Scafidi.
“If I’m a starter [this year], every time I pitch I want to help the team win,” Eaise said. “I want to do whatever it takes to help us win an Ivy League championship.”
Eaise and his teammates are hoping that there will be a 2021 season to prove that they have what it takes to compete for an Ivy League title. Aside from that, Eaise is looking to fulfill one more dream which could take shape next summer.
“After the season, the MLB Draft is coming up.” Eaise said. “If I were lucky enough to hear my name called, that would definitely be something I could cross off my bucket list.”
Over 10 years later, it is remarkable how far Kevin Eaise has come.
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