Geneva, Batavia rivalry plays second fiddle to charitable event for cancer

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The rivalry between Batavia and Geneva, particularly in baseball, has always had a charged atmosphere, and Batavia coach Matt Holm has no problem admitting it.

“I’ve been known as the guy that pushes the rivalry,” Holm said.

But when news came down that Drew Hahn, the son of Geneva coach Matt Hahn, was diagnosed with anaplastic large-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March, the rivalry took a back seat.

“There is a coaching fraternity,” Holm said. “I can’t possibly imagine any of my kids having to go through that. I told Matt that overrides everything.”

The Hahn family has received overwhelming support thus far, and it figures to only increase on Monday, May 19. That is the date of the fourth annual combined senior night for Batavia and Kaneland at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, an evening that has become a charitable event to benefit local families in need such as the Hahns.

Drew is a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, and the Hahns are one of three families who will be honored at the event. Kaneland varsity softball coach Brian Willis is currently suffering through colon cancer. Phil Kassinger, the father of Kaneland senior baseball player Kevin Kassinger, has stage 4 lung cancer.

All of the proceeds from the event will go to the three families. Admission is $5 for adults and students, and kids under 6 are free. There will also be concessions available. There are also opportunities to make donations or sponsor the event by contacting Kaneland coach Brian Aversa at brian.aversa@kaneland.org.

The sophomore game begins at 4:30 p.m., followed by the two programs’ senior night ceremonies and a 7 p.m. varsity game.

Earlier this season, Geneva played at Kaneland and Holm showed up at the game. Aversa and Holm approached him after the game.

“Do you guys want to make me cry?” Hahn asked. “I read the letter explaining what they wanted to do, and sure enough, I started welling up. It wipes away the rivalries. It puts things in great perspective, that teams like Batavia, Geneva and Kaneland can compete, but there are much bigger things going on. It was very humbling for us.”

When Aversa and Holm heard about Drew Hahn’s diagnosis, the wheels were already in motion.

“We’re not just rivals,” said Aversa, who is a Geneva graduate. “This is much bigger than baseball. It’s about helping people you work with. Drew is a great kid.”

Drew began his second round of chemotherapy Monday and has approached the struggle with a very mature approach.

“I can’t be negative, because you never see him say anything negative,” Matt Hahn said. “It makes it easier for all of us to handle. It’s amazing. He’s taking everything in stride. You never hear him say, ‘Woe is me.’”

At the exchange of the lineups before every game this season, the first question Hahn has been asked is about Drew’s status. Meals show up on the Hahns’ doorstep from complete strangers.

“Just an outpouring of support,” Hahn said. “The whole thing has been humbling. You don’t realize what your circle really is until something like this happens. It’s nice to know that people care.”


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