Chad Eaton is one of the better high school pitchers in Southern California, no small feat for a year-round baseball region which produces more Major League Baseball draft picks and college stars than almost any other.
Yet Eaton will only pitch one more game in his high school career, and injury has nothing to do with it. Rather, the North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall pitcher will take the mound for a final time on Saturday against Glendale (Calif.) Hoover High and then undergo a kidney replacement on Tuesday, an operation which will almost certainly end his season and his high school career as a result.
According to a fantastic feature from the Los Angeles Times, Eaton is trying to make the most out of the final hours before taking on a new kidney.
"I'm going to spend as much time with my teammates as I can, play the hardest I've ever practiced in practice and just make the best of what I have left," Eaton told the Times.
Thanks to his aunt, Susan Launer, Eaton is likely to have a lot more left than he would otherwise. Launder promised Eaton she would donate one of her kidneys to him when he was four, and now that the teen's condition has deteriorated significantly over a 12-month span, she and her nephew will head into a UCLA Medical Center operating room in days.
For Eaton, that surgery will bring to an end a year of brutal therapy and medical complications. The teenager has spent 10 hours each night connected to a dialysis machine for the past year. That followed a junior season in which Eaton was hospitalized four times with infections from a catheter he needed to keep him healthy while he was active.
Once he is back up and running -- literally and figuratively -- with a new kidney, Eaton has big plans ahead of him. The senior hopes to attend Wake Forest, where he will attempt to be a part of a Demon Deacons baseball program that gained national attention related to kidneys in 2011, when coach Tom Walter donated one of his kidneys to then-Wake Forest freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan.
In the meantime, Eaton has kept baseball in his mind and his heart, using the sport he loves as a way to get through the tough days in his past and his future.
"Sometimes I don't feel the best. I want to show people I'm happy because I'm a happy person," Eaton told the Times. "I don't get down on myself a lot. I've definitely screamed. I calm myself down, realizing I'm getting a transplant soon and everything's going to be better. All these problems are going to go away soon. I still have baseball. I always think of that. It's something I love."