Young player leaves legacy |

Young player leaves legacy

Nicholas Mariscal loved tee-ball, karate, trucks, anything that made noise. He was a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

Loved. Was.

It seems so wrong to be writing in the past tense about a 5-year-old boy whose life was cut short in an accident that took his life at the Nevada County Fairgrounds several months ago. But that is the harsh reality, and all who knew Nicholas personally or only in the faintest of connections must try and cope, if that is possible.

Jami Stevens, his mother, said she carries on one day at a time, as hard as it is. Friday’s mail brought to her touching news that made her burst into tears – Nicholas, who finished his first year of tee-ball a mere few weeks before his accident, was awarded posthumously the Barry Brooks Inspirational Player Award, presented annually by the Grass Valley Little League.

With the award, Nicholas’ name will be part of a perpetual hanging plaque at Condon Park. It is yet another touching tribute to a boy who clearly loved sports. A boy who received his yellow belt in karate at his funeral. A boy who was wearing a Dodgers T-shirt the day of that service.

Nicholas played for the Dodgers tee-ball team of Grass Valley Little League. Third base was his favorite position to play. Stevens cherishes every practice her youngest son attended, every game he played.

“If a little guy on the other team would hit the ball, he would run clear across the field,” said Stevens. “Even if someone else would catch the ball, he’d run over and slide. He just had to be a part of the action. But I think what I cherish most about Nicholas is that he slept with me every night, and every day he would give me a kiss and tell me he loved me to infinity.”

Stevens is a single mother. She knows firsthand what it is like to try and raise children on her own, to provide activities for them that oftentimes come with a weighty price tag. With the passing of Nicholas, she remains fervent in her belief that parents must have the opportunity to provide children access to a full range of activities, including sports.

“There are a lot of single moms who can’t afford to have their kids in sports,” Stevens said. “It is worth the money, because of the memories you have. Every child is a blessing and I’m glad that I had Nicholas in the sports that he was in.”

Stevens wants to help make it possible for cash-strapped single parents to be able to afford the escalating cost of sports. On July 27, a memorial softball tournament for Nicholas was held at Litton Field. The number of players who could participate was capped at 100, but 120 people in this community showed up. A one-day tournament suddenly turned into two, and with it plans to make it an annual event were born.

“Each year, I will pick a charity,” Stevens said. “One of the charities I’d like to start is for single moms who can’t afford to have their kids in sports. It is also a way to give back to the community financially, emotionally and spiritually because the response has been incredible.”

Stevens strength in the wake of her son’s passing is to be admired. And so is the cause she has chosen to try and turn a tragedy into something that benefits those in need.

With a lump in her throat and a heavy heart, Stevens has put on her rally cap for future causes. Nicholas would be proud.

We all should be.

Vince Vosti is a sports writer for The Union.

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