D.A.: Fittingly Mo Gaba's Final Day Was About Positivity 

Mo Gaba lost his battle with cancer this week, and as D.A. observed, there will never be another one like him

Damon Amendolara
July 31, 2020 - 12:46 pm

I've never met anyone like him. I know I never will. The relentless embodiment of happiness was such a powerful, enduring trademark of his, it changed the world around him. It changed it permanently. He was an angel among us, walking right here alongside, an ethereal figure that you could laugh with, talk to, and touch. There will never be another Mo Gaba

He was a child who became a role model in front of our eyes while facing so much adversity you had to question how much one person could handle. At nine months old, he was diagnosed with a cancerous growth on his retina. It had to be removed, and it took away his eyesight. Over the next 14 years, he would battle cancer in just about every part of his body. He would spend time in hospitals, getting treatment, battling back that disease. He would seem to have it beat, then it would return. It's been estimated he spent 75 percent of his life in assorted medical facilities. 

Through all of this difficulty, enough to cut down even the strongest of us, Mo laughed. He smiled. He joked. He spread joy. He was an enormous sports fan, passionate and knowledgeable about his beloved Orioles and Ravens. His cancer treatments and lack of sight knocked his sleep cycle for a loop. He discovered his comfort in sports radio. Five years ago, Mo found my national radio show on his local airwaves, as we aired at nights on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore. He listened. He had opinions. He was in on the jokes. He was only 9 years old but he figured if other people had the forum to express them, he should, too. It never struck Mo that just because he was a child he shouldn't enter the fray. Mo did not know limitations. 

"Little Mo in Baltimore" would call the show at all hours of the night. He'd always have the most enthusiastic entrance. "What's up, D.AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" he'd yell into the phone. "Can you beam me uppppppppp!?" Then he'd laugh such a hearty laugh you'd think he'd just had the best day anyone's ever had. In fact, he'd just had the worst day by almost anyone's standards. Anyone's standards except his. 

That's because every day for Mo was beautiful. Somehow even in the storm of darkness, sickness, and yet another round of treatment, he saw and felt light. He felt it through sports, camaraderie, and friendship. He rooted for his O's and Ravens. He immersed himself in sports. He played video games and called sports talk and chatted up everyone around him, walking through this magical world in his mind. I never knew Mo was blind or sick as he called my show over the years. He never let on. He wasn't going to lead with it, nor be defined by it.

Mo began calling local shows as well on 105.7 The Fan, and through his infectious personality became a celebrity. The hosts gravitated to him. People in the community started to put the puzzle together. That Little Mo kid on the radio with all the funny calls and great sports opinions? He was the same Mo in the children's hospital making the doctors and nurses laugh. 

Mo became a magnet for joy. How could you listen to his calls or see him in person and not be immediately attracted to the magic that lived inside his soul? The local teams reached out to touch some of that "Mojo." The O's had him throw out the first pitch on Kid's Opening Day, and sit on stage at Fanfest to ask his favorite players questions. The Ravens invited him to training camp, and had him call a play inside the huddle. He laughed and joked and wailed happily like a kid on a rollercoaster as his heroes hugged him. Of course, he was also their hero.

Mo's life couldn't fit inside a normal person's jar. It spilled over at the side, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. The Ravens had him announce one of their draft picks, and he became the first person to ever do so by reading it in braille. How many of us have an NFL head coach call during middle school class? He was on the NFL Network making history. That card is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Local TV stations did features on him. International newspapers wrote stories about him. He was playing in the sandbox with all of his best friends. And they were professional athletes and broadcasters. 

Earlier this summer, his health was in decline. He had been given news that it had spread again. The final two months of Mo's life were unlike anything we have ever seen. The community held two - that's right, two - parades for him upon graduating middle school. The local police shut down his block. Teachers, friends, and pro ball players came to walk in front of his apartment in Glen Burnie, Md., to salute his extraordinary life. Inspiration isn't a big enough word to describe what he meant to everyone who attended. 

I drove with my wife the following week to spend time with Mo at his home. We brought some gifts to celebrate his accomplishment. I picked up a Fortnite water gun (one of his favorite games) so he could soak me. A whistler Nerf football so we could throw it and he could hear it. A few sports-themed T-shirts. When we walked in, it was like the receiving line for a royal wedding. There were so many presents, boxes, and balloons in his living room we could've built Mo a castle out of them. 

What's it like to spend a day with your hero? It was astonishing. I will remember forever the gentle power that he emanated. His laughter was even more beautiful in person. And when you contrast it with the coughing in between, you wonder how anyone could still muster that energy to laugh and giggle and play. We enjoyed some video games (he was really good at Mortal Kombat). We talked about when baseball would return. We sprayed the water gun. We laughed. And for a few hours in between he had to take a nap because the sickness was a lot to handle. 

I asked later that day if I could interview him. I really wanted to capture on film the wisdom and perspective of someone so incredible. But I understood if it was too much, if the outpouring from everyone may have been too overwhelming, Yeah right. "Sure! Where should we put my microphone?!" he exclaimed. I laughed some more. 

Mo has been a ham his entire life. He was comfortable on the radio riffing on the latest Ravens game, and grabbing the mic at school to emcee an event. Tired? Nah, Mo was born to talk into a mic. I asked Mo why he believed he had such an effect on people. "I think it's just because of my attitude," he told me in between coughs from his bed. "I just always stay positive. I try to stay as positive as I can." Does he ever have an understandably bad day? "Sometimes I'm not as positive as I usually am, but then I just think positive. It's not that hard to think positive." Where did he learn that? "It just came to me. I just thought about it myself. Just think positive and everything will be fine." 

That spirit changed the world around him. His sports radio station aired "The Big Mo Show" from his bedroom last month, as host and Mo's dear friend, Jeremy Conn, sat alongside for one of the most extraordinary evenings in the medium's history. WWE superstar Roman Reigns, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, former Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis called in to tell him how much he meant to people. The phones were jammed the entire night. Conn couldn't keep up with the social media messages pouring in. A three-hour show extended for four-and-a-half hours until Mo's mom decided it was probably time for him to go to bed. 

On Tuesday, the Orioles inducted him into their Hall of Fame. As you may imagine he's the only 14-year-old among that hallowed group, a fraternity that includes some of the greatest baseball players ever like Cal Ripken Jr. and Frank Robinson. That same day, Little Mo passed away. He took the elevator upstairs to heaven where undoubtedly he's got more work to do as an angel from above, laughing and smiling for eternity. When Conn sent me the news, I cried. I cried those big, wet, heavy tears that just gush out of your eyes like an open fire hydrant. And then I looked to those heavens, wondering where my little friend was. And the most enchanting orange sunset shined. It was Baltimore Orioles orange. I smiled through my tears and remembered what Mo was sent here to teach us. 

No matter your circumstances, stay positive. No matter how daunting or painful the hurdles put in front of us, stay positive. We are not defined by the positions we are put in. We have the power to define them. Mo was defined not by the seismic health issues that faced him his entire life. He defined his life by laughter, happiness and joy. So Tuesday, July 28, 2020, was not the day my friend died. It was the day he officially became a Hall of Famer.

Thank you, Mo. I love you. #MoStrong 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 6:00AM-10:00AM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.