ORLANDO, Fla. – Noely would have loved this.
The castle spires high in the blue sky, the bright colors and smiling faces, the parade: She loved Disney World, and she loved Javy.
Javy Baez’s little sister would have loved this Saturday afternoon, with her hero starring in a Main Street parade to celebrate the Cubs’ long-awaited championship. Without Noely, it’s possible Javy would have never come to the United States.
They were born in Puerto Rico and one of them was clearly gifted: Javy, the boy with grace and strength he showed from the time he was a little boy. The real blessing, though, was Noely, who was born with spina bifida and wasn’t supposed to live a year. She lived and lived brightly, inspiring everyone with her determination and her will. She was the engine, even after their father passed in 2004.
“She was always happy, always smiling, trying to do something to make somebody else smile,” Javy said Saturday after the parade. “The way that everybody wanted to be around her, looking out for her. Every time we had a party, everyone was around her. She brought happiness.”
Javy wished he could do more for his little sister, even saying he would give her his legs if he could. He could play for her, though. That made her happy.
The Baez family came to America in 2005 not for Javy’s life but for Noely’s. “She is the reason I moved to the U.S.,” he says. “They didn’t have all the care for her in Puerto Rico. My mom decided to move her and have a better life for her.”
They eventually made a home in Jacksonville, only a morning’s drive from here. Noely had friends there and she fell in love with Disney World like so many do.
“She got to be here, we saw the show,” Javy says. “All of it. All of it was great for her.”
The show she loved the most, though, was her brother’s show. And in 2011, Javy was drafted. It was a shared moment, like everything else: She knew he made it, and he knew she wouldn’t have to worry anymore about care. By 2013, Javy was one of the top prospects in baseball. He was going to make it.
Last year, a respiratory infection put Noely in the hospital as Javy prepared for a season with the Cubs’ minor league team in Iowa. She rallied at first, but then, finally, she couldn’t withstand anymore. Noely died a year before the Cubs’ magical season. She was 21. So much of what drove Javy was gone.
“I didn’t want to play baseball,” he says.
Eventually, Javy regained his passion. “I understand life continues,” he says, “and you have to motivate more people.” When he was called up to the majors later that year, he brought along a baseball glove Noely used to keep with her during his games as she sat in her wheelchair. He also has a tattoo of her face on his shoulder.
Throughout this season, Javy spoke to his sister often, every day even. It’s an ongoing conversation through prayer, like the one they shared during her life. He is both grateful and sad: There are memories that would never have happened if she lived only a year; there are memories he has without her in them. He was co-MVP of the NLCS. He became a household name in Chicago. He stole home in a playoff game.
“I’m always talking to her, talking to God, asking her to take care of me,” he says. “Giving thanks for everything in life.”
The last week has been a dream sequence for millions of Cubs fans, as something they’ve always imagined has happened in real life. The memories of countless loved ones has been summoned – shared dreams still alive after a loved one has died.
It’s even more than that for Javy Baez in a Cubs jersey at Disney World. Here is the brother she loved, in a place she loved, in a country she loved. This all happened as much because of her as because of him. A World Series championship is something that every boy dreams of.
But this is a little girl’s dream, too.