It's 7:30 in the morning at M.S. 22 in the Bronx. Every day, the Lady Tigers show up at the gym for a two hour softball practice before school. It all starts with a daily affirmation from their coach Christopher Astacio, "Before they get on the team, I said this is what I expect. Be great in school and you're going to be part of a family and I will be your father."
Astacio considers himself a father to the girls because many of the girls don't have their own.
"My father left at a very young age, I have trust issues," said Bryana Francisco who is co-captain of the team.
Yashira Centeno an 8th grader hasn’t seen her dad in years and leans on her coach, "he's like a father figure. My father left me when I was 5."
Coach Astacio has his troubles, too. The 37 year-old was diagnosed with stomach cancer, twice. Last year, he started documenting his battle with videos and posting them on Youtube.
“It’s hard to hear when someone important to you, you can't help so it was hard at first. But he is always there for us," said Francisco.
Thankfully, Astacio has been cancer free for the past year. But the team videos caught the attention of a youth softball coach in Chicago.
The Fireworks invited the Lady Tigers out to the windy city to play on a professional field at Bandits Stadium.
But the Lady Tigers didn't think they had raised enough money to go on the trip, until they watched a video sent in by the Chicago team.
“We are pleased to tell you, you will be coming to Chicago,” said the Fireworks.
The Lady Tigers will play a double header, with their names on the big screen, the last weekend in April. Not just with their teammates, but with their family.
If you would like to contribute to their fundraising, you can help here: