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Getting into the game

Boy suffering from undiagnosed condition gets an on-field tour of Dodger Stadium.

September 24, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com
  • Reece LoCicero, 4, of Montrose, high-fives former Dodger third baseman Ron Cey at Dodger Stadium on Thursday. Reece and his family were treated to a night at the stadium, spending time on the field, and watching the game from behind home plate.
Reece LoCicero, 4, of Montrose, high-fives former Dodger… (Tim Berger/Staff…)

DODGER STADIUM — Ron Cey approached 4-year-old Reece LoCicero for an introduction and autograph.

"Who's your favorite Dodger?" the former all-star third baseman asked the kindergartner.

Reece was speechless, his mother saying the youngster might be better catching behind the plate than fielding the hot corner.

"And you can be short and be a good catcher," she said. "That'd be perfect for you."

The Montrose family missed Back to School Night on Thursday to be the Dodgers' guests during batting practice.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Reece's father, Jason LoCicero.

They lingered on the grass behind the batting cage as Dodgers and Padres took their swings. They toured the dugout, took photos and wagered how many Dodger dogs Reece would put down.

He held up two fingers, his new white Fernando Valenzuela T-shirt jersey hanging below his knees.

"I'm hungry," he yelled.

Reece is battling a series of symptoms that continue to perplex doctors. Surgeries and tests have been inconclusive, but Reece is not contagious, according to doctors and medical records.

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The family is applying to highly specialized treatment at a clinic in Maryland, which could be the breakthrough that leads to a diagnoses, Jason LoCicero said.

"That, for right now, is kind of our next route," he said. "It's definitely an exciting development."

But few things are more exciting than seeing Reece make friends, Natalia LoCicero said.

"I picked him up and everyone was like, 'Bye, Reece,' and his face lit up," she said. "He's loving school."

The 4-year-old is one of the youngest in his class and is a little behind academically. Reece was too sick for preschool and is without some of the abilities of his classmates, his parents said.

His godmother, a kindergarten teacher, donated her old curriculum supplies to the family, and Reece is making steady gains, his parents said.

"There's a couple things he struggles with, but he's doing well," Natalia LoCicero said. "He works hard, but him being shy doesn't always help."

Dodgers staff showed Reece outfielder Matt Kemp's bats and first baseman James Loney's helmets. He got a batting-practice baseball and took a seat on the dugout bench where manager Joe Torre usually hangs out during games.

He was overwhelmed, and a little nervous, his mother said.

"I'm not nervous," Reece said, smiling.

The family was invited to join the Dodgers through Glendale civic groups and connections through the Glendale Police Department.

The family invited Officer Shawn Sholtis, of the department's K-9 unit, to join them for batting practice and the game.

"He's been an amazing new friend in all of our lives," Jason LoCicero said.

Before taking their seats behind home plate, the family took one last glance around the stadium. They wondered if, years from now, Reece would remember his hunger for Dodger dogs or the athletes and environment around him.

"In 25 years, he's going to be playing on the field," Natalia LoCicero said. "This is something that's super special."

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Donations to the family can be made to Reece's Medical Fund and sent to 4455 Arden Drive in El Monte, CA 91731.

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