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Sisters' bond over baseball leads to 'magical' White Sox milestone


Laura Williams hasn't missed a Chicago White Sox home game in over 2,830 days. That's more than 600 consecutive contests since Aug. 13, 2008 (a 4-0 Sox win over the Royals) for the 37-year-old Chicago native. She's been to 819 home games since she became a season-ticket holder with her mother, Alice, and sister, Carrie, in 2006.

The three women have spent many a night together at U.S. Cellular Field and the old Comiskey Park, often marking Laura's birthdays and milestones with a message on the JumboTron. Laura has also spent plenty of date nights at the ballpark with her boyfriend of nine years, who didn't much care for baseball until he realized he'd better come around if he wanted to spend time with her.

For most people, the toughest part of keeping a streak of 600 consecutive games alive would be the demands of work, family or social life. For Williams, who has battled cystic fibrosis since birth, the biggest challenge has always been staying healthy enough to make it to the ballpark.

The disease is characterized by the buildup of a thick mucus that can damage organs, including the lungs, pancreas and liver. Flare-ups can be debilitating; Williams missed five home games in 2006 after undergoing surgery, making her return to the park in a wheelchair.

"I didn't set out to do any kind of streak," says Laura, a medical technologist at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital outside of Chicago. "I never had perfect attendance at school as a kid because I was always sick. But as I've gotten older I've been able to manage my health a lot better."

Now there's a certain pride in handling her illness well enough to hit 600 straight. "Once I made it through all of the 2009 season without any misses, I was like, 'Lemme see if I can do another season,'" she says. "Then we counted back and realized I was at 100 straight. Then it became 200. And now it's like, 'Let's see what other milestones I can hit!'"

A week ago, Laura thought her streak might end at 600. Then she got the surprise of a lifetime and a little bit of help in hitting that next milestone.

***

Carrie Williams, Laura's 31-year-old sister, has had health issues since 2012. She was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last September. For Carrie, the disease of the central nervous system manifests itself mainly with flare-ups of terrible nerve pain. Fatigue is an issue for both sisters as they fight their respective illnesses.

After Carrie's diagnosis, the family decided not to renew their season tickets for 2016 and instead focus their resources on the sisters' health. After 10 years, they'd no longer have their regular seats. And after more than eight years, Laura's streak was going to end.

"Laura was gonna make a clean break at 591 games and I was like, 'I don't think so! You have to go to at least 600 and get a nice round number,'" Carrie says. "So we got tickets for the first nine home games. At the same time, I contacted White Sox PR and told them Laura was about to hit 600. I simply wanted them to know that despite the fact that she was no longer a season-ticket holder, it was important to her to at least finish the streak at 600."

The White Sox beat the Rangers 4-1 on April 24, finishing off a series sweep on Laura's big day. The team celebrated her achievement with TV appearances during and after the contest and a tote bag filled with team goodies. Alice Williams marked the occasion with a scoreboard message honoring her daughter's streak. "I thought my celebration was over on the day of my 600th," Laura says. "I thought it was a nice way to go out."

But the White Sox had other plans.

After a few days on the road, White Sox PR got back in touch with Laura and offered her tickets to the next five home games so she could keep her streak alive until the Sox could honor her at their game on May 7.

When the family, including the girls' boyfriends, arrived, they were escorted to the field, where one of Williams' favorite players, outfielder Adam Eaton, surprised her with a hug and a No. 600 jersey. "I don't even think I've played in 600 major league games!" he told her. "You need to keep coming to keep us playing well."

Doing just that shouldn't be a problem, as Eaton and the Sox then awarded Williams with two season tickets for the rest of the 2016 season.

"It was truly a magical day," Carrie says.

***

For both sisters, time spent together at the ballpark is about more than baseball or keeping a streak alive.

"It's funny," Carrie says, "Laura and I have this unspoken bond about [our illnesses]. When either of us gets really sick, we don't talk about it to each other, but we just kind of know. I think things like Laura's streak and what happened Saturday, it sort of revitalizes us and gives us this energy we normally don't have when we're not feeling well.

"When we can be together and do fun things like this, it almost makes us forget -- until she coughs or I stumble -- that we're even sick."

And for Laura, reaching that next big milestone now seems well within reach.

"It almost feels like I have to keep going now, ya know!" she says. "Even if they don't make the postseason this year, I'll still hit 672, and I feel like that's too close to 700 to quit."

If the White Sox continue their white-hot play -- they've got the second-best record in baseball, behind the Cubs -- a trip to the postseason looks like it's in the cards, and Williams could get pretty darn close to the 700 mark this season. And then, of course, the siren song of 800 will draw her back next year. And can you imagine the celebration for 1,000?

The White Sox better start planning now, because you can bet Williams plans to be there.


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