I grew up in Fabius, NY. There are more cows than people in this small town. All of my neighbors were family. When I was a kid, I was always outside playing some kind of sport. I played baseball, basketball and soccer throughout school. None of my friends lived nearby. The closest was a mile and a half away. I had a soccer goal in my lawn, a tire that I would pitch in and a basketball hoop on my family’s barn. Every day, I would spend time on all three sports trying to be the best that I could possibly be. This work ethic helped me be first team all league in soccer and baseball and also, being named captain for soccer and basketball. My senior class even voted me as most athletic.
Now when it came to high school, I did just enough to get by and into college. That came back to haunt me in college. After high school, I went to two different colleges. My first college was Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire. Franklin Pierce was a lot like my hometown. There wasn’t really much in around town. Like I said earlier, just getting by in high school haunted me because I thought I could get away with the same thing. So I hardly went to class thinking that I would be ok. Long story short, I only lasted one year. That summer, I decided to transfer to Johnson & Wales University thinking that a change of environment would help me do better. JWU is in downtown Providence, RI. Well that was quite a change of environment. A country boy living in the big city. I fell into the same trap as before but for different reasons. Needless to say, I didn’t even last a year there but I decided to stay living in Providence with my fraternity brothers. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the lead of my brothers and took a bad path in life.
On September 18th, 1998, I made the best decision of my life. I was still living in Providence with my life going nowhere. Eight days prior, I had a close cousin from back home was in a real bad accident. In those eight days, it was tearing me up inside not to be there for my family as my cousin was fighting for his life. When I got a call from my mom that he lost the battle, I made the decision to move back home and start my life over. One week later, I was back living in little ole Fabius with my family, looking forward to a fresh start. In the next few days, I had job interviews, spent time with friends and family and most importantly, I was able to spend time with my cousin’s family.
On Friday, October 2nd, my life changed forever. That morning, I was helping a friend of mine pack up a Uhaul truck because she was moving to Virginia. As they were leaving town, I headed home. I was driving on a road that I had driven down hundreds of times. Around 10am, I lost control of my vehicle. There was not a mark on me, just one dislocation causing damage to my spinal cord. It left me paralyzed from the chest down. When I was told by my parents that I wouldn’t walk again, my first response was, “what’s the next step?”
From that moment on, I have been positive about everything. I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t had my days where I felt sorry for myself or depressed but out of 21 years of not walking, you can count the number of those days on one or maybe two hands. For three months, I was in the hospital. During that time, I had physical and occupational therapy every day and hundreds of visitors. There was never a dull moment. One person that came to visit me was my high school baseball coach. He asked me if I would want to join him and be his assistant coach.
I was released from the hospital in January and started coaching in March. For those couple of months, I kept trying to figure out how I was going to be able to coach since I wasn’t able to hold or throw a baseball nor could I hold or swing a bat. Well it didn’t take long to figure out that what I couldn’t help with physically, I could help with the mental aspect of the game. Which according to Yogi Berra, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”
Since 1999, I have been an assistant coach for the varsity baseball team in my home town of Fabius. Now, I am also an assistant to the boy’s varsity soccer team as well as both the boy’s and girl’s varsity basketball teams. There have been hundreds of kids that I have coached.
Whenever something bad happens to someone, they always ask Why me? Or Why did God do this to me? Well I did ask that question a few times after my accident. I decided that God only gives us what we can handle. It wasn’t until a few years into coaching that I realized that He wanted me to mentor kids and teach them not to take things for granted. I did that too often before my accident.