By Andy McDonald – Collegiate Staff

Baseball. The most mental game of them all. Players are constantly thinking of what to do next, where to hit the ball, or where to throw it. It starts in spring and goes until you are known as the boys of summer. From little league to high school one thing never changed for me, my love for the game. Every time I stepped on the field all my wor- ries would vanish and it was like nothing around me mattered. When I was playing baseball nothing could go wrong, until July 14, 2013.

Two summers ago I was playing in a tournament sponsored by Michigan State University that was held on their field and a local high school, Dewitt’s, field. I played for my high school because my coach thought it would help me to play against some of the best talent in Michigan, so I took a break from my normal summer ball little league and played in the weekend tournament.

The first day of the tournament was great. It was an excellent experience to play at MSU against some really good teams. Even though we got beat pretty bad the first day, I still had a great time and felt like I was playing kids that I was equal to.

The next day I chose to go back and play in the loser’s bracket on Dewitt’s field and since we didn’t have a full team to play in both games, my coach needed me. I always wanted to be a better hitter, and I was getting much better that summer. I was improving my vision on the ball, all the way to the plate and getting good contact. In the last inning of the final game, I hit a line drive single right back up the middle and reached first base. At that moment baseball felt like it always did, but I felt even more excited inside because my coach was impressed. However, this excitement was fleeting. Minutes later, I would never regret getting a hit more.

I took my normal lead off first base, and on the first pitch, my teammate hit a ground ball to the shortstop. I took off for second. After fielding the ball, the shortstop headed there too, to try and turn a double play. Most shortstops stay on top of the bag and try to throw over you, but this guy went to the right of the bag and threw sidearm toward first. Right as he released the ball, I started my slide and the next thing I remembered was trying to catch my balance while holding my hand over my eye, then taking it off to a puddle of blood.

As I struggled to stand up, the shortstop was yelling at me to lay down and put his hands under my head, in an effort to slow the bleeding. Turns out he was training to be a paramedic, and knew what to do. I didn’t really know what was going on, but I knew my coach was running out on the field along with my dad and the umpire. Soon there was a crowd of people around me, and I kept asking if I still had an eye because everything was black from the blood and swelling. I kept hearing the shortstop say, “I don’t ever want to touch a baseball again,” so I knew it was bad.

Soon after an ambulance showed up and the paramedics got me on a stretcher to carry me off the field, I heard clapping. So I did what most athletes do and gave the thumbs up to signal that I was going to be alright. As cool as I thought it was when players did that on television, trust me that it’s not a scenario you ever want to be in.

They took me to Sparrow Health in East Lansing. I was brought to a room where I held a cloth over my eye to keep pressure on my face to stop the bleeding. They eventually put nine stitches above my right eye which caused the scar I still have today.

When I could eventually open my eye, I couldn’t see anything. I kept asking the doctor to look at it but he said it was probably just the blood in front of my eye causing my vision to not be clear. Eventually the adrenaline wore off and the pain set in. I was begging for pills and it took them forever to get them to me. They didn’t bring any food with it, so I swallowed them on an empty stomach. My dad kept pushing for someone to take a closer look at my eye and the doctor had an ophthalmologist take a look at my eye in a different building.

I didn’t get a wheelchair, so I walked out of the emergency center with whatever strength I had left. I got in my dad’s car and held a napkin to my eye that was still bleeding. Working around traffic, my dad eventually found the eye care center where the specialist was waiting for me with a wheelchair.

The second I opened the car door, however, I threw up due to taking pain pills with no food in my system for hours. I remember feeling the pressure go to my face, causing it to bleed even more. After I recovered, we went up into a small room with a mechanical chair so the doctor could get a good look at my eye. The only problem was, he didn’t need any time at all. He took one look and said something that still scares me to this day.

“This is much worse than I thought.”

He left the room and it was just my father and I sitting there. For the first time I could see my face in the mirror and it was so swollen. I wanted to cry, but my eyes wouldn’t let me.

I looked over to my dad and said, “I don’t want to live if I look like this forever.”

He grabbed me and said to me calmly, “Never think like that, I will do whatever it takes to get you through this.”

In that moment, he gave me everything I needed to keep fighting, because I knew how much he cared about me.

When the doctor came back in, his words didn’t get much better.

He said, “If you want to save your eye you need to go to the University of Michigan health care, because their eye specialists are world-renowned for what they do.”

We didn’t have much time, and couldn’t get an ambulance because to them my injury “wasn’t severe enough,” so, yet again, it was my father and I on the road.

My dad drove there in what seemed like a world-record time of a little less than an hour, and I was half asleep the whole way. When we arrived they knew exactly who I was and got me a room immediately. The doctor ran a few tests on my eyes and looked in my injured eye with a bright light for a few minutes, then went to get the results. My mom showed up shortly after and we waited for news from the doctor on what they were going to do next.

A tall man came in the room and asked how I was doing and started talking to all three of us about what happened. He told us what they were going to do, and that was surgery on my actual eye because the baseball had torn part of my iris, which was part of the reason I could barely see. I also broke my eye socket in two places and they were going to repair that as well. All of this sounded good until he told me there was a possibility I could lose my eye, and if I did get to keep it I would never be able to see out of it again most likely. I was scared, but stayed as strong as possible and tried to stay positive, but that became hard with what the doctor told me next.

As he left the room, he said one thing that made me more upset than anything else, “You will probably never be able to play baseball again.”

I yelled back at him, “Yes I will, this injury is something I can overcome.”

“I know you have courage and all, but it will be too dangerous,” he said.

I refused to believe him. When he said that, I had my mind set that I would do whatever the hell it took to get back to what I loved.

They went through the two surgeries on my actual eyeball and broken eye socket. I woke up hours later to have the doctor who performed the surgery tell me it was successful. So successful that the doctor who performed it stayed so she could check on it the next day, which was very impressive because she was a leading eye surgeon. She went through a check up the next morning, and I was told no doubt that I would have my eye. I had to come back for two check ups a week the rest of the summer and stay on bed rest.

As boring as those days were, I will never forget one of them.

I was watching a movie and my mom was in the kitchen making me lunch, when suddenly I noticed I could see some of the colors on the television. The light from the sun coming through the windows was so bright through the holes of my eye patch.

“Mom, hurry, I can see again!” I yelled to my mom.

She started crying and hugged me. I felt happier than I had in two, long weeks. I thought I would never see out of that eye again. The bed rest lasted about another month, but it slowly got better from that day and my appointments started to space themselves out.

I had so many friends visit while I was stuck in bed. They would bring me gifts and stay for hours just to keep me from being bored out of my mind. I never really knew how much my family and friends cared about me until that happened. It was the people around me who helped me get through it as much as anything else.

The next season I played baseball again after being cleared in late January, and didn’t miss a beat on the field. I had coaches ask me if I really thought it was worth it, and I would always tell them it was, because it was a goal I set just hours after the injury happened. It was hard to adjust, and I was a bit shy at first of fielding and hitting. Every day after school I would go to the cages and practice to get back to the player I was before, and it paid off that spring and summer when I was back on the field again.

I look back now, and think about how lucky I am to still have my eye, and even though my vision is still blurry out of the right one, the fact that I can see anything out of it is amazing.

Sometimes I do wish that I could see perfectly out of that eye, but I would never change a thing about how I am today. I think about the moment in the room, with my dad, when I said I didn’t want to live anymore and how much confidence he gave me by telling me he would do anything it takes to get me through it, and how much stronger it made our relationship. I think about when the doctor told me I would never play a sport again, and how I got through rehab so quick that I played the next year. I think about all of the friends that stuck with me through it and visited me, and I found out how many people really cared about me.

For how bad I felt after this whole thing, and all the pain I went through, losing my vision ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me. I found out who I really am, and it changed the way I look at life everyday. As much as everyone who was involved in my life at that time helped me get through it and find my true self, it all comes back to the one thing I still love more than anything. Even though it hurt me in one of the most unforgiving ways, it is the only reason I have some of the mental strength I have today. The greatest game ever played. Baseball.