Dell Rapids boy fighting cancer meeting Yankees at spring training

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - An 11-year-old Dell Rapids boy is in Florida meeting his favorite baseball team thanks to the work of Make-A-Wish South Dakota.

Derek Gerlach is battling back against a stage-four brain tumor. His wish was to spend some time in the warmth with some of the boys of summer.

"It's going to be pretty weird," he said. "I've never been inside a limo."

A limo is just part of what Derek can expect during his time in Florida.

He has been a life-long fan of the New York Yankees, and he is going to spend some time with the team in spring training, among other things.

"We're going to Lego Land, Disney World and Harry Potter World," he said.

His dad, Shane, said this team-up with Make-A-Wish and the New York Yankees is a literal dream come true.

"I just want to watch Derek experience it," he said. "They said he can go out on the field at batting practice, and we don't know what else is going to happen. I'm going to be able to look out and see my 11-year-old little boy who is fighting cancer out there."

Greeting Derek at the airport Monday morning was KSFY News General Manager Jim Berman, who is a Make-A-Wish board member.

Twenty years ago he attended a Yankees fan camp. He understands how big spring training is to a true fan.

"To be able to help get Derek on his way to Yankees spring training, I just thought was a perfect full-circle opportunity to do that," Berman said.

And to watch them play, because I've never seen Yankees spring training live," Derek said.

Derek is now in a two-week window where he does not have to undergo any type of therapy for his cancer. He will be able to just be a kid who loves baseball.

His dad said despite the stage-four nature of Derek's tumor, he is doing very well in his treatment.

"We went through radiation for seven weeks at Mayo, he responded very well to that, and now he's responding well to the chemo as well," Shane said. "He'll get through this."

"I want to say 'thank you' to Make-A-Wish, the Yankees for letting this happen," Derek said.

Gratitude can take a toll on a little one who has been fighting a big battle. Good thing dad was on hand to tell him -- "Go Yankees!"

Flandreau-based Loiseau Construction is sponsoring Derek's trip to Yankees spring training.