Hayden Gregory and Spencer Muffuletto are both senior baseball players for Jackson County High School where they serve as prominent leaders throughout their team.
“I think it is huge. People get to look up to you, but you have to make yourself better at the same time,” Muffuletto stated.
Being leaders both on and off the field are a huge component of each of their personalities and they both take the role very seriously.
“You have to leave it better than you found it. You have to lead by example because you have so many looking up to you,” Gregory explained.
Wednesday, Oct.19 was like any other volleyball game day for Gregory and Muffuletto. The two of them sat in the student section like any other game and shouted chants throughout to cheer on the Lady Panthers as they took on Johns Creek. Little did they know this day would change the life of a fan from the opposing team.
Jonny, a junior at Johns Creek High School loved the chants and eagerly awaited to meet the guys in the student section after the game.
“Jonny fell in love with that group of boys in the student section and wanted to go over there during the game. My husband said you can not go over there right now, they are cheering for their team. We were trying to teach him the rules but that did not matter to him because Jonny saw the fun being had. Typically he runs to his team afterwards, but this time he ran to the student section trying to keep them there so they could cheer some more,” Linda Hickey, Jonny’s mother explained.
To Jonny’s surprise, Gregory and Muffuletto were still right there in the student section waiting to talk to them.
“He and his dad walked over and told us that he loved the chants. We kept talking and decided we wanted to follow Jonny on facebook to keep up with him,” Muffuletto stated.
Jonny was diagnosed with autism, but that did not slow him down one bit. During COVID-19 with the help of his mother, he created an online store where he designs t-shirts and sweatshirts with the saying “live kind.” He is able to create, pack and package all of the orders on his own, with little guidance from his mom.
Shortly after following Jonny on facebook, Gregory and Muffuletto purchased sweatshirts from Jonny and tagged him in their photo. Little did they know this is how their friendship would come full circle.
Jonny and his parents were able to travel down to Gainesville this past Friday to see the Panthers play. Jonny was a little upset that he was not able to see Gregory pitch, so he was in attendance Monday to make sure he caught a glimpse of him on the mound.
Jonny’s wish was granted and he was able to see Gregory pitch against Gainesville Monday night at Panther Park.
Gregory and Muffuletto are already looking forward to hanging out with Jonny this upcoming summer.
“I would love to hangout with him this summer. He is a big ball of energy to be around,” Gregory said.
Both of Jonny’s parents were blown away by the kindness and support shown by both Gregory and Muffuletto, but also the entirety of Panther nation. Jonny’s mom explained that he would forever be “committed” to this friendship.
“They do not know this yet but he is their friend for life,” Hickey expressed
The entire Panther baseball team has taken Jonny in and made him a Panther for life. “Our team has really adopted him as one of our own. He is our buddy for sure,” Head Coach Matt Bolt expressed.
Both individuals will be continuing their baseball career at the collegiate level. Gregory will attend Toccoa Falls in the fall and Muffuletto will be attending Piedmont.
Hickey, Jonny’s mom expressed that they would be in attendance at both of their collegiate games when they were able.
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