John Kundla loves sports — any kind of sport. He always has and probably always will be a sports fan — especially baseball.
Born prematurely, the 28-year-old Old Forge resident has cerebral palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of five. Although his physical condition has limited his ability to participate in sports, nothing has been able to trump his passion for the game. He attends Railriders games with his grandmother, a loyal season ticket holder.
“When it was the Phillies (Red Barons), his room was decorated in the Phillies theme,” said his mother, Elly Kurpiewski. “Now that they’re the Yankees farm team, his room is, of course, decked out in their colors.”
Recently, Kundla had an opportunity to meet up with his idol, Derek Jeter, during the shortstop’s rehab stint in Moosic.
“I told him I watch him on TV all the time,” he said.
“It’s true,” Elly added. “Sometimes, he’s got the television on and his head phones listening to the play-by-play.”
Of her son meeting his idol, Elly shared how impressed she was with his down-to earth attitude, “What I appreciate the most about him,” she said, “Is that he knelt down next to John. He didn’t tower over him. He got down on his level and really spoke with him. He took the time.”
Kundla, has become somewhat of a local sports “fan celebrity,” recognized for his enthusiastic smile and passion for life. He’s been volunteering at PNC Field for the past two seasons as a greeter at the admission gate. There’s no doubt that at some point, if you’ve gone to a game in Moosic, you’ve had to have seen Kundla and, you know he’s “got game.”
“Don’t let anything hold you back,” Elly said.
“Yeah,” Kundla agreed. “This chair doesn’t mean anything.”