Field of friendship

Charley Longdon and Bishop Ward baseball player Donovan Corrigan Jr., share some time on the field before Ward’s upset of top-seed Jefferson West High School in the state regionals. Charley, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that causes contractures in the joints, is a fixture at Ward games. LEAVEN PHOTO BY LORI WOOD HABIGER

by Moira Cullings
moira.cullings@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On the surface, the bond Donovan Corrigan Jr. and Charley Longdon share over baseball seems typical.

Just two high school boys chatting occasionally about the sport they love.

But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find an authentic friendship that is anything but ordinary.

Donovan, who will be a senior at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas, in the fall, and Charley, who graduated from Washington High School in Kansas City, Kansas, in May, initially connected over their passion for baseball.

“This season, I noticed Charley in the stands and would always say ‘hi,’ and we’d share a few words,” said Donovan, a team captain and top player for the Cyclones.

“Before our second game of the season against St. Pius X in Kansas City, Missouri, Charley came up to me and told me I was his favorite player,” he continued, “which meant a lot to me.”

Charley, who attends the Cathedral of St. Peter, and Donovan, a parishioner at St. Patrick Church, both in Kansas City, Kansas, are connected in another way, as Charley’s younger brother Vincent plays baseball at Ward as well.

Longdon has arthrogryposis, a condition that causes contractures in the joints and affects the muscles and ligaments.

He is able to compete in sports programs and participate in Special Olympics, but the passion he has for the top-notch baseball program of the Cyclones is evident even from the fan section.

If you ever attend a Ward game, you’ll hear Charley shouting encouraging words from the stands whenever Donovan is up at bat.

“Hit a home run for me, Donovan!” he’ll cheer.

The moment Donovan gets a hit and touches base, he points up to Charley with a wide grin.

“Charley keeps me focused, but also never fails to make me smile when I look over at him cheesing at me,” said Donovan.

The positive energy Charley brings with him is nothing short of uplifting.

It “gives me edge on the field,” said Donovan.

“Knowing what Charley has gone through and knowing that he would do anything to be on the field inspires me to give it all I got every second of every game,” he added.

For Charley, offering encouragement comes easy.

“Donovan is my favorite player because he is my friend,” he said. “Donovan is a good ballplayer and he is just a very nice guy.”

The chance to positively influence his favorite player means the world to Charley.

“It makes me happy and makes me proud to know I am able to motivate him to play his best,” he said.

Corrigan’s parents, Donovan Sr. and Melissa, have been touched by the boys’ friendship.

“The bond the two share is special and it’s built on mutual respect and admiration,” said the elder Donovan.

“Their bond is also over both of their true love of baseball. It has grown into a genuine friendship,” he said.

The friendship has also inspired Charley’s mom, Christina Zuniga.

“Charley has no enemies,” she said. “He believes everyone is his friend.”

“However, his friendship with Donovan is pretty special,” she continued. “He always talks about him and what a nice guy he is, so I know Donovan has left an impression on him.”

Donovan ended this past season with a .410 batting average and will continue to pursue his dreams of playing college baseball by participating in college showcases this summer.

He believes Charley pushes him to become a better player and plans to invite him to several summer games.

“On the field, Charley motivates me because I know how badly he wants to be out there,” he said. “So I take it upon myself to play my heart out every play for him.”

That attitude makes Donovan’s father proud.

“I told my son when he was younger, ‘Always play hard and compete to the fullest of your God-given ability,’” he said. “‘Because you never know who’s watching.’”

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