By Jeffrey Mansour
On what would have been his 16th birthday, Ravens and Orioles superfan Mo Gaba was commemorated across Maryland on Jan. 26. The Baltimore icon succumbed to a lifelong battle with cancer in July 2020, but his story and message of positivity will live on forever.
Gaba was born in Glen Burnie, Maryland and was first diagnosed with cancer at nine months old. By the time he graduated middle school, he had spent about three quarters of his life in hospitals.
Despite his unimaginable challenges, Gaba always maintained a contagiously positive attitude. Gaba began discreetly calling into Baltimore sports radio stations in 2015, where his bubbly personality did not go unnoticed. He gathered a major following from radio hosts and listeners who were inspired by his story and delighted by his cheerful persona.
Gaba soon became a Maryland sensation, becoming host of “The Big Mo Show,” where he spoke with famous Baltimore athletes and coaches. He received other extraordinary opportunities such as throwing the ceremonial first pitch of an Orioles game in 2017 and becoming the first person to announce an NFL draft pick in Braille when he did so for the Ravens in 2019.
“He has shown people that even in what many would consider the darkest times, it is possible to enjoy life and to do what you desire,” Mt. Hebron junior Ryan Saitta said.
Just prior to his death, Gaba was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. He also became the second ever recipient of the Wild Bill Hagy Award, an award given to fans who inspire others with their devotion to the team. Despite the thousands of dollars raised in fundraisers, he lost his fight with cancer on July 28, 2020 at age 14. Having developed personal connections with players, coaches and broadcasters, and having touched the hearts of countless Maryland residents, his passing was mourned throughout the state.
Jan. 26 marked 16 years since Gaba’s birth, and was established by Anne Arundel County schools as “Mo Gaba Day.” Lindale Middle School, from which Gaba graduated before his death, will annually select one recipient of the “Mo Gaba Award,” who best exemplifies Gaba’s outlook of positivity.
“By celebrating Mo Gaba Day, Anne Arundel County schools are keeping his memory alive,” Mt. Hebron junior Natalie Venginickal remarked. “Their celebrations help remind people to follow their passions and stay positive, just like Mo did.”
Though Gaba’s passing broke the hearts of many in the Maryland area, his message will leave its impact on sports fans and Gaba fans alike for generations.
“Even though Mo spent most of his life in hospitals, he still stayed positive enough to find joy in sports,” Venginickal said. “He’s shown people it’s possible to be happy no matter what else is going on.”