There’s a story behind every athlete’s journey, and one Prince Edward Islander wrote an inspiring one at the 2022 Canada Summer Games.
Jakob MacEwen from Cornwall struggles with a serious health issue on a daily basis and has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Bill Conohan, his great-uncle John Conohan and his uncle Craig Conohan who played for the baseball team in the PEI team. This week, Jakob is part of the Prince Edward Island delegation competing in the Niagara region of Ontario.
Bill, who watches all of Jakob’s games and calls him after every practice, and John competed in the very first Summer Games in 1969. Bill had two throwing victories in that tournament. Craig, who was team captain, caught every game in 1993.
“I was very excited to have the opportunity (to play for Team PEI),” said Jakob. “Since I was a kid, baseball has been something everyone in my family has done.
“It’s in my blood, and I love hearing the stories of the Canada Games and their experiences, and I’m thrilled to take up the torch. Maybe there will be a fourth generation? We never know.”
The family connection of the 16-year-old son of Thane and Colette (Conohan) MacEwen might not even be the most intriguing part of Jakob’s story. Jakob was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was seven years old, but he denied that it had any impact on his dreams.
“The first thing he asked the doctor the day he was diagnosed was, ‘Am I still going to be able to play sports?’ said Colette, who is Bill’s daughter and Craig’s sister.
Once diagnosed, Jakob’s parents researched professional athletes he looked up to. One of them was NHL player Max Domi. Jakob read Domi’s book, No Days Off, and said it puts things into perspective about discipline and creating good habits.
“The first thing he asked the doctor the day he was diagnosed was, ‘Will I still be able to play sports?'” —Colette MacEwen
One year for Christmas, Jakob received a signed picture from Domi saying he can do whatever he wants.
“It really inspired me,” Jakob said.
Asked what advice he would give to young people struggling with diabetes, Jakob said he would tell them to seek out other people who have been able to reach a high level and follow their story.
Jakob said managing diabetes is now second nature to him, as he has spent more than half his life with the disease. Regardless of what he was dealing with, Jakob said he always had a strong support system.
“I was never told that I couldn’t do anything because of my diabetes,” Jakob told the SaltWire Network in a phone interview. “I know a lot of people who have been able to play ball at a high level and who have great careers with type 1 diabetes.
“I never really thought it would be something that would stop me from doing it.”
February will mark Jakob’s ninth birthday receiving an insulin pump. He recently received a new one with the latest technology available.
Colette described it as an integrating insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system.
“How it works, basically, is the continuous glucometer, which he usually carries in his arm, monitors his blood sugar,” Colette explained. “The pump, which he also wears, delivers adaptive, personalized insulin doses based on real-time glucose data it receives from the CGM.”
The new system includes an app with real-time data. If Jakob’s blood sugar drops to a certain level, his parents will receive an alert.
There’s no better example of Jakob’s ability to manage his diabetes while playing sports than on April 20, 2022. Jakob’s Mid-Isle Matrix and Charlottetown’s Central Attack played seven periods and just under 117 hockey minutes, and he was able to watch and keep things regulated by the PEI Men’s Under-18 AAA Hockey League playoff game.
Jakob said his coaches and teammates have always been supportive of his condition.
Colette briefed head coach Rob McCormack and his roommates at the Canada Games on what could happen and what to do in an emergency with Jakob’s diabetes.
“They were very understanding about it and said, ‘Don’t worry about us; we have your back,” Jakob said.
McCormack coached Jakob for three years with the Canada Games program. McCormack said he knew about Jakob’s diabetes and met his parents early on. McCormack checks in with him regularly on how he’s feeling, especially on hot, double days. McCormack described Jakob as very independent and mature, noting that he knows how to tell a trainer if something is bothering him.
“I think (diabetes) made him really accountable and grew up a lot faster than other kids per se because of his diabetes,” McCormack said. “For three years, I never had to worry about Jake, even though he did. …
“As far as an athlete is concerned, you would never know that he has to regulate himself and make sure his blood sugar is good. He is very responsible, one of the hardest workers on our team, a nice kid to coach and always trying to learn.
McCormack described Jakob, who plays left field for Prince Edward Island, as a power hitter and outfielder with a speed that allows him to track down fly balls and fill gaps as well as anyone. who.
McCormack said left-handed Jakob could also be called up for work outside the bullpen.
“When Jakob started showing that he was going to be left-handed, my grandfather, who would be Jake’s great-grandfather, Walter (Conohan), who was also a left-handed baseball player, was very excited to see that he was going to be left-handed,” Colette said. “There was no doubt that he was going to have to play ball at that time. Every time we saw (Walter) he would say, ‘You play ball, don’t you, young man? ”
Jakob MacEwen’s family ties to Team PEI. at the Canada Games:
- Grandfather Bill Conohan and great-uncle John Conohan played on the Prince Edward Island baseball team in the first-ever Canada Summer Games in 1969.
- Great-uncles Preston and Reg Conohan were members of the Prince Edward Island baseball team in 1985. Preston pitched and Reg was the head coach.
- Aunt Crystal (Conohan) Creighan (a sister of Jakob’s mother, Colette) played Canada Games softball in 1987.
- Aunt Lisa MacEwen (a sister of Jakob’s father, Thane) played on the PEI racquetball team. in 1991.
- Uncle Craig Conohan was captain of the Prince Edward Island baseball team in 1993.
- “Baseball is an integral part of our family life,” said Colette MacEwen. “Nanna and Grandpa’s Sunday dinners usually end with some kind of ball game or batting practice. It was the same growing up for us, and the same growing up for my dad.
A multi-sport athlete, Jaycob has participated in three international hockey camps for diabetic athletes. Colette said Jakob learned a lot about diabetes management from these camps.
Jakob’s efforts were recently recognized when he received a True Grit award at a fundraising golf tournament for Philadelphia Flyers forward Zack MacEwen’s My Biggest Fan Foundation. The matrix named Jakob.
“Jakob goes all out and his diabetes management is certainly no exception,” Colette said. “When he was diagnosed, we promised Jakob that we would do everything in our power to live the same life he always lived before diabetes. …
“Whether he’s playing hockey or baseball, he sets a goal and he gives 100% to try to achieve it. He’s our hero, that’s for sure.
Jason Simmonds is a sportswriter at the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JpsportsJason.