Late in the season, teams are often times playing to move up in the standings, but the Fullerton College softball team is playing for much more.
They have decided to dedicate this season to Valerie Hutauruk, who is known as Victorious Val. Hutautauk was a collegiate basketball player herself before she was diagnosed with leukemia.
“One of our assistant coaches, Crystal Aguirre found a Facebook page called “Prayers 4 Val” and we were touched by it,” said head coach Marian Mendoza. “We decided that we wanted to take the team and head to City of Hope and meet this girl.”
During finals week in December 2013, all of the coaches and all 22 players made their way to meet Victorious Val. Coach Aguirre went armed with a Fullerton College softball shirt with the number 21 on the back and “Victorious Val” printed across the top on the back.
“At the time when they came to visit me I was kind of struggling,” Hautaruk said. “When they came in and welcomed me and made me part of the family, it gave me some strength through the battle and the continuous support has encouraged me to keep going.”
Though Valerie says that she has been encouraged by the Hornet softball team, they insist that she has done way more for them than they have done for her.
“We were able to go and witness her not only get through cancer but do it optimistically with a smile on her face,” said pitcher Alyssa Felipe. “We see something like that and we think if she can get through that and not complain, then we can push that extra little bit in practice and we can get through adversity in our games.”
The Hornets went out to City of Hope during finals week and there was a chance that they would not get to see Hauturuk at all if she was not feeling well. They did get to see her and expected to stay for 15 minutes to a half hour tops. It turned out to be so much more.
“Before we knew it we had looked up at the clock and it had been a couple hours and some girls were going to be late for finals,” Mendoza said. “We loaded some girls back up and headed back to school while I was mad rushing to call professors and let them know what had happened.”
The team’s relationship with Hauturuk did not stop after that visit. They decided that they were going to dedicate this whole season to her, and they wear orange wristbands that say Victorious Val on them.
A couple weeks later came Christmas, and some of the girls decided that they wanted to do something for Victorious Val.
Felipe created a video project that showed her go around and have members of the community hold up signs to let Hauturuk know that people were praying for her and believed she would get better.
The end of the video shows some members of the team singing a version of “Hallelujah” with lyrics changed for Hauturuk. They also put together a basket with some items in it that they thought represented Victorious Val.
“We found out that she was going to have to still be in the hospital for Christmas,” Felipe said. “That was not okay for us so a couple of the girls got together and decided that we wanted to do something to motivate her over the holidays.”
Felipe said that she just hoped it was able to put a little smile on Victorious Val’s face.
“That visit close to Christmas meant so much to me,” Hauturuk said. “They went through and told me what every item in the basket meant. Just that constant acknowledgement and letting me know that they are praying for me has meant so much.”
Hauturuk was given a great gift for Christmas but so was her family and the Hornet’s softball team. After a stem cell transplant from her father, Victorious Val was determined to be cancer free on Chirstmas Day 2013.
To this day, there are still struggles, but Hauturuk has begun the process of getting her life back to how it used to be.
“I can’t wait to be able to get back on the basketball court,” Victorious Val said. “I have already started dribbling and doing some things. It will be great to get that part of my life back.”
Hauturuk’s doctors have been very careful with her, but she was able to make it out to the Hornets’ game last Wednesday. They came back from a 7-2 and were able to win the game 10-7 after an eight-run sixth inning.
“I think Val’s presence played a huge part in that game,” Mendoza said. “When the team turned around and saw that she was there, I think it lit a spark for us, and made us start playing harder.”
Victorious Val started off as a nickname for Haututuk but has become more of a truth over the past few months, now that she has a victory over cancer.