Ballston Spa youngster Nick Rychcik and his new friend looked at some bikes Friday and decided to take them for a ride.
So that’s exactly what they did — inside Wal-Mart.
This wasn’t just any new friend for Nick. It was New York Yankee legend Bernie Williams, a five-time all-star and four-time world champion. And Nick, he’s a 9-year-old baseball fan and pitcher with a good delivery to the plate.
Nick’s also battling cancer.
“That was first time I’ve ridden a bicycle in a store,” Williams said afterward.
“We got helmets, we even rode through the vegetable section over here,” Williams added a little later. “It was a lot of fun.”
Nick seemed to have fun, as well.
They also rode past a long line of local residents waiting to spend just a moment with the baseball star for his autograph.
For a period, though, Nick had the Yankee great all to himself. He had a Wal-Mart gift card from PepsiCo and Albany Medical Center to spend on anything he wanted.
The event, held at the Glenmont Wal-Mart, was part of a program called Shop with a MLB Player, sponsored by Pepsi.
Nick, who has been battling cancer for a year, wanted a new bike. He got that, as well as a couple video games. Williams signed a couple balls and bats for him, as well.
“I am very proud and very glad to be a part of this,” Williams said.
Nick’s father, Dave, said the event was huge for his son.
“For him, he’s gone through a lot. His spirit is amazing,” Dave Rychcik said. “He could be getting sick from the treatments that he’s getting or down or doesn’t want to be in the hospital, but he gets up for baseball. He loves baseball.”
Nick has a rare form of cancer called desmoplastic small round cell sarcoma. It’s a cancer his father said only 50 children in the country are diagnosed with each year.
He’s been treated by doctors at Albany Medical Center, as well as at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Nick’s prognosis is good, his father said, but treatment is ongoing. He praised all the doctors who have helped and are continuing to help his son.
Along with the spending money, Pepsi donated $10,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. A portion of the donation will support programs at the Albany Medical Center Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. The Melodies Center is part of the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Med.
Nick’s mother, Kelly, and his three sisters and brother also attended the event. The family has a Facebook page devoted to Nick’s fight, Rally for Rychcik.
Through his treatment, Nick has found time for the game, his father said. He got to play for his local youth team this spring. He picked up five wins as a pitcher and no losses, his dad said.
“He inspired a lot of people. I’m very proud of him,” he said.
Nick didn’t wear a Yankees jersey to the event — he wore his own Ballston Spa Bearcats jersey. His last name was right there on the back, along with his number, 1.
But he did have his Yankees hat. The Yankees, of course, are his favorite team. His favorite players are Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Maybe if Nick was a little older, Williams would be on that list. Williams’ final season was 2006.
But he’s probably on that list now.
Long before Nick’s time, all three Yankees spent time locally with the Yankees former Class AA farm team in Colonie. Williams even briefly talked about his time locally, calling it pivotal to his progress as a player and as a person.
Nick declined to talk to local media. Instead, as Williams signed autographs for fans, Nick hung out with his new friend a little longer.
“I have a ton of faith,” Nick’s father said. “I have a ton of faith in God, I have a ton of faith in the doctors and I have a ton of faith in my son.
“He’s got a heart that’s just amazing.”