In the second game of a Mahoning Valley Scrappers – Jamestown Jammers doubleheader, one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed took place. In the second inning, an unidentified four-year-old was struck in the head with a line drive foul ball. The sickening thud quieted everything. The next thing I saw was a father in a state of panic carrying the child from the first row seat just past the home dugout and frantically screaming for help. An EMT met the father and the child and guided them into a tunnel leading to the lower-level corridor.
Everything was silent. The game was halted as everyone held their collective breath for well over a minute. Once play resumed, I heard the sirens of an ambulance. I ignored the game for a moment to exit the press room and look over the balcony hoping to get an encouraging glimpse of the young child showing movement or sitting up with an ice pack on his head.
When the EMT’s got the stretcher up the six steps and the boy was carried and gently laid down, I saw nothing to be hopeful for. The child was motionless, the family was horrified, and anyone who saw what I saw was scared.
After the game ended, I drifted back to the locker room to get some thoughts from Scrappers Manager Travis Fryman. Upon getting settled, I overheard Fryman relaying a status update to his team. I could only get bits and pieces of what he was saying, but knew that it could not be good news.
When Fryman came through the curtain, I asked him to relay any information he had. “The reports I have have not been optimistic. A four-year-old boy was hit in the head with a line drive. There are some cranial issues and some spinal issues that are going on here. Obviously, the young man will need as much family and prayer support as anyone can give him. I cringe as a dad and as a coach because I see so much of this, but I have never seen a death as a result. I probably hurt more as a parent and a father right now as I do a baseball manager.”
The ball came off the bat of Scrapper Ben Carlson. Fryman commented on Carlson, “Ben is one of the most genuine and sincere and caring young men I have had in two years here. He is a great teammate, loves his teammates. This is going to sit really heavy on him through the night tonight.”
It is with a tear in my eye and a prayer in my heart that I can only wish the best for the poor kid who was unintentionally hurt. I will also pray for Ben Carlson who has to be devastated.
I will continue to update this story as I receive information.
***Update 9/4/09 @ 1 AM The boy underwent surgery and has since been transported to an undisclosed children’s hospital where he is said to be in an induced coma.
***Update 9/4/09 @ 12:43 PM The boy hit by the line drive has been identified as Luke Holko. Holko has since been moved to Akron Children’s Hospital where he remains in an induced coma. He has undergone surgery for skull fractures and the next few days are critical.
***Update 9/4/09 @ 10:40 PM No change on Luke’s status as far as I could find out. The Youngstown State baseball team is raising money for their own program by doing vending duties since most of the regular vendors have gone back to their colleges. Every cent they made at tonight’s Scrappers game was donated to Luke’s cause. It was great to see these young men working hard to raise money. There is a benefit cookout scheduled to take place at Sam’s Club in Warren, Ohio on Monday, September 7 (Labor Day) from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM. The money generated from the cookout will be used to help offset medical expenses to the family of Luke Holko. Scrappy The Dog will be on hand. The address for Sam’s Club #6327 is 1040 Niles-Cortland Rd., Warren, OH. I will continue to pass along updates as I get them.
***Status Update 9-5-09 @ 9 AM Luke Holko’s condition is listed as critical. His family held a press conference yesterday at Akron Children’s Hospital in which the boy’s mother, Nicole Holko, said she is happy that the community is flooding the family with e-mails, support, and donations. The family also thanked EMT’s for their quick response at the game. Luke underwent surgery in Youngstown to lift the fracture and take pressure off of his brain. On Thursday, Luke was transported to Akron where doctors are waiting for the pressure to decrease before they can determine what the long-term effects of the injury will be. It could take up to 5 days for the swelling to go down. More updates to follow.
***Status Update 9-5-09 11:30 PM Be sure to click on the comments at the bottom of this story, I recently received a comment from a close friend of the family which includes a direct quote from Luke’s father. They are reading this blog and appreciate the support. Travis Fryman and Ben Carlson traveled to Akron Children’s Hospital this morning where they spent time with the Holko family. I talked with Ben Carlson after the game tonight. I wish all professional athletes could see how they should have acted when they were 21. Ben is doing better and thanks everyone for the support. Travis also remarked at how incredibly grateful the Holko family is for the overwhelming support. More updates as I get them. Thanks for caring enough to check back. Anyone who knows I was asked by the local television news media and only provided audio clips as an anonymous media source can explain that I am not following this story to promote my website. I am merely trying to relay information to those concerned for the well-being of Luke, his family, and Ben. Being the only media source reporting on the incident the night it happened has strengthened my own concerns for the above mentioned parties.
***Update 9-7-09 5:15 PM I attended the fundraiser held at the Warren, Ohio, Sam’s Club to raise money for Luke in the theme of a Labor Day cookout (pictured). Scrappy, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers Mascot was on-hand. Several people were lined up to buy the picnic fare food to which all proceeds were being donated to Luke Holko. I spoke with event coordinator and Sam’s Club grocery/produce manager Jendi Pregibon. “The response has been overwhelming. When we started at ten o’clock we had alot of the family members here. Luke’s aunt is still here with the others volunteering their time.”
I asked Pregibon how she came to be involved in the project to which she very emotionally replied, “I had my family there [at that particular game] and saw it. We [Sam's Club] want to reach out to our community and show them how much we care.