11. A Meeting with Roger
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122 11 A Meeting with Roger The 1993 baseball season was well underway. The Yankees were looking pretty good so far, although their pitching was suspect. But with guys like All-Stars Don “The Hit Man” Mattingly, Paul O’Neill, and Bernie Williams in the starting lineup, they were a threat at bat and on the field. You could never count them out, certainly not this early. In late May, a nine-year-boy named Roger Holt came to Weinberg’s office with his grandmother, Dee Crooker, a registered nurse, who had custody of Roger. He was gangly and puppyish and wore a Mets baseball cap. He was born in 1983 and not diagnosed with hemophilia until late 1984, when heat-treated clotting products were already on the market. But he had been given underheated medicine that contained live AIDS virus. “I’ve heard you are helping people,” Crooker said. “I wanted to see if you might be able to help us.” Weinberg had spoken to her by telephone already, and knew something about Roger’s situation. He was HIV-positive and frequently ill. His T-cell ratios, a calculation based on the number of white blood cells crucial to the immune system, were poor. This meant he was becoming more and more susceptible to infection. His prognosis was grim. Weinberg’s three boys were a little younger than Roger. Jake was six. Weinberg was his T-ball coach and was proud of his son’s natural baseball swing. Arnie was four and an authority on bugs of all sorts. Mike was A MEETING WITH ROGER 123 almost a year old, chubby with long blond curls. Now, here was Roger, an innocent kid infected with a deadly virus, accompanied by his grandmother , her life devoted to keeping him alive. “I think I can help,” Weinberg said. “There are no guarantees. This will be hard.” “We’re not here for miracles,” Crooker said. “We need someone on our side.” Roger was looking at the pictures of Weinberg’s boys. “That’s Jake,” Weinberg said. “He’s a baseball player.” Roger smiled but didn’t say anything. Weinberg looked at Crooker and saw her eyes filling with tears. “Dee, would it be OK if Roger and I just sat together here and got to know each other a little? You know, just us guys?” She managed a weak smile. “That would be nice,” she said. “Michelle can make you a cup of coffee,” Weinberg said. Crooker thanked him and told Roger she was going outside for some air and that he should sit with Weinberg for a while. Roger watched her leave and then looked again at Jake’s photo. “How old is he?” “Six,” Weinberg said. “How old are you?” “Nine.” “Wow. You’re big for nine, aren’t you?” “I don’t know. I guess so,” Roger said with a shrug. “Do you play baseball?” “Yes.” “What position do you play?” “Usually first base,” Roger said. “Sometimes I pitch. I missed some games when I was in the hospital.” “Has that happened a lot?” “Yeah, pretty much,” said Roger. “It’s ’cause I’m sick.” “I know. That must be no fun at all.” “It’s only sometimes. How old is he?” Roger was pointing to a picture of Arnie. “He’s four, almost five,” Weinberg replied. “I have three sons. Mike is the third. He’s only ten months old.” BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS 124 “I wish I had a baby brother.” “I’ll bet you would be a great brother.” “Yeah,” Roger said. “So I guess you’re a Mets fan?” Weinberg asked. “How did you know?” “I can figure things out. Some guys just look like Mets fans. Actually, I looked at your baseball cap. It says Mets, so I guessed.” Roger smiled broadly. “You’re a good guesser.” “I’m a Yankees fan,” Weinberg said. “But I like the Mets, too.” They talked a while longer, about baseball and school. Roger was a bright and engaging child. He seemed to enjoy being with Weinberg, knowing he was a father of three boys, knowing he liked baseball. He didn’t even mind being teased about the Mets. Yet there was an aura of sadness around him. Roger knew more about life and death than Weinberg did, and they both knew it. Weinberg could not fathom what it meant to be nine and realize you were dying. Weinberg brought Crooker back into the conference room and asked...


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