By KAYLIN FLUKEY
Baseball is often described as an escape from reality, whether you are on the field or in the stands. Once you step between those white lines everything else seems to fade away and your only focus is on that little white ball with 108 red stitches.
However, for others the game means so much more.
Lukas Englert, a 2023 graduate of Mainland Regional High, has more love for the game than most could ever begin to understand.
At just eight months old, Lukas started experiencing what would soon be diagnosed as seizures. Lukas went to the doctor for his routine checkup when a concern was brought up resulting in his pediatrician sending him to the hospital for further testing. After an MRI was done on his head at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a cyst and a tumor were found in his brain. Lukas’ family traveled to Boston and Maryland for second and third opinions, but each resulted in the same diagnosis with surgery being the only option.
Lukas had his first surgery at 18 months old followed by two years of chemotherapy, which ultimately shrunk the rest of the tumors that could not be removed in surgery. Everything was going smoothly until the fifth grade when the seizures came raging back and Lukas was taken in for a second surgery. The seizures remained dormant until seventh grade, when, once again, they came back and he received a third surgery followed by proton therapy, which is more accurate than straight radiation.
The treatment was deemed successful because the seizures have not returned since the third surgery. Lukas receives yearly MRIs to make sure the tumors are not growing.
These surgeries were substantial to Lukas’ development growing up because the tumors were located right in the middle of all his cognitive processing, including speech, speech recognition, writing, writing comprehension and social interaction. Every time he had a surgery it bumped him back a few years and slowed down the development of his cognitive processing.
Even though Lukas faced many obstacles and setbacks growing up, it did not stop him from being a kid and discovering his love for baseball. His family played an important role in making sure he had as much of a normal childhood as possible.
“The word ‘can’t’ is not in our vocabulary,” said Lukas’ father, Brian Englert. “We are going to normalize this non-normal situation as best we can. We are going to stay positive, and we are just going to work through it because once you get down it brings everyone down. We just muscled right through it.”
Brian has been involved in his son’s baseball career since he was in kindergarten, he said, coaching him through every level. From hours spent at the batting cages to the late-night drives home from a game, the father-son duo has formed an inseparable bond.
“It is everything for me to just keep this fun thing going that we have all these years from the time that he was 5 to 18.” Brian said. “We are locked at the hip, he and I, wherever I go he is going with me.”
Even though Lukas recently graduated from high school — where he was part of the Mustangs’ baseball team that made it to the state championship game this spring as a team manager — that wasn’t going to stop Brian from finding a way to keep the tradition going with his son.
For the past three summers, Lukas has played for the Somers Point Captains in the South Jersey Shore Baseball League. Brian is one of the assistant coaches. Lukas goes into the games with a can-do attitude and is not afraid to wait his turn. He hits the field running when called upon to pinch hit, play in the outfield or be a pinch runner.
“He is a kid that just loves baseball. He lives for this kind of stuff he is probably one of those kids that has his jersey on at 3 in the afternoon,” said Captains head coach Dave O’Sullivan. “Not everyone is a star player but there are so many kids out there who just love being around the game, love being a part of it in any way they can.”
Sharing the field with a bunch of elite college players can be intimidating at times, but not for Lukas with his positive attitude and an entire team behind him, cheering him on.
“They love him. All of these guys have just really taken to Lukas and brought him in as one of the key members of the team, which is cool to see.” O’Sullivan said. “If he doesn’t get a hit, they are right there to encourage him and give him some advice for his next at-bat.”
Being a part of a team is one of the things Lukas loves the most about the game. He knows that no matter what happens he has people in his corner supporting him. When he is on the field with his teammates, he is a part of something bigger than himself. Baseball is more than just a sport to Lukas. It is the excitement leading up to game time and the car rides home talking about the game with dad. Falling in love with the process of getting better every day. Enjoying the simple things — like the beautiful weather or the smell of hot dogs cooking in the snack stand. But most importantly it allows him to be in control of something when his entire life has been handed a great deal of uncontrollable circumstances.
Lukas’ positive attitude has not only gotten him through tough times, but has allowed him to find something he loves and put everything he has toward it. He is an inspiration to the entire league, and his story says to people that no matter the situation you are in, the word “can’t” should never be in your vocabulary.
“It is a great reminder to some of the kids on the team that there are people who are going through some difficult challenges and to enjoy the time that you have playing baseball,” O’Sullivan said. “Take advantage of every opportunity that you can to play the game because you never know when you are not going to be able to play anymore. Lukas is a daily reminder to our team that baseball is meant to be enjoyed, and that what makes it so enjoyable is the people you share the dugout with.”
Kaylin Flukey is a 2020 Absegami High School graduate and a rising senior at Iona University studying journalism. She’s a contributor
for South Jersey Glory Days.