Faculty and Staff, Outreach

Guckes Joins Texas Boy for Magical Evening of Baseball

The Carolina Mudcats recently hosted the Mississippi Braves – and even more importantly, they hosted Zachary Hamm of Spring, Texas.

Zachary Hamm of Spring, Texas, enjoys his day at Five County Stadium. (Photo credit: Nikolaus Johnson/Carolina Mudcats Baseball)

Zachary’s family had originally contacted the Carolina Mudcats organization because Zachary’s 7-and-under coaches pitch team also was named the Mudcats. Zachary’s family decided to make the 1,200-mile trip to Five County Stadium to see a Carolina Mudcats game, and the organization provided tickets for the family and their friends. The Carolina Mudcats also invited Zachary to throw the first pitch for the Aug. 18 game, and he did so in the Mudcats uniform he wears for his own games back home.

Zachary has a form of ectodermal dysplasia, and the Mudcats organization also contacted Dr. Albert D. Guckes, associate professor of prosthodontics at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, to see if he would like to attend the game with Zachary and his family.

Zachary Hamm enjoys the Carolina Mudcats game with his new friend, Dr. Albert D. Guckes of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. (Photo provided by the Hamm family)

Guckes is a consultant to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias, and he conducted the first prospective clinical trial of dental implants in individuals with ectodermal dysplasia while at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a component of the National Institutes of Health. Ectodermal dysplasias can affect the teeth, skin and other tissues.

Guckes said it was a wonderful opportunity to meet a great family and share perspectives on both baseball and coping with ectodermal dysplasia.

For Zachary, it was a night of making friends, getting autographs from players, enjoying a special treat provided by the Mudcats chef and many more wonderful surprises. Guckes sent him a Carolina baseball cap the next week. (UNC-Chapel Hill’s baseball team won the 2007 ACC Baseball Championship and was the runner-up in the 2007 Men’s College World Series.) The family plans to return to the area to see a Durham Bulls game – and visit the UNC-Chapel Hill campus – next summer.

“The hospitality and generosity we were shown was above and beyond any expectations,” the Hamm family wrote in a letter to the Carolina Mudcats organization. “At the end of the evening, after the Mudcats had won the game, Zachary exclaimed, ‘This is the best day of my life.’ ”

The final score was 6-4, but the Mudcats victory was just icing on the cake for one Texas fan.