14-year-old Weston Mazey, known as "Wammer," is a typical baseball-obsessed kid. But one fateful day at a West Virginia ballpark, baseball almost cost him his life when he was involved in a horrific collision with another player during practice.
Weston's father, Randy Mazey, the head baseball coach for the West Virginia University Mountaineers, was on the sidelines.
"My son was at shortstop, so he was running directly away from me to chase the fly ball. And the center fielder was running directly towards me. And my son kind of dove for the ball, and the center fielder didn't dive for the ball and basically kicked him right in the front of the face."
It was a heart-stopping moment for any parent. And it quickly became apparent that Weston was seriously hurt. "He was laying on his side and bleeding pretty profusely out of his nose and out of his ear," says Randy. "He wasn't moving, but his eyes were open. And I tried to wake him up, and he wouldn't respond to me at all."
Weston was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured skull and traumatic brain injuries that were potentially life-threatening.
"When we first got to the ER, and we walked in, there were about 20 people furiously working on him," says Weston's mom, Amanda. "And I remember I just kept thinking this can't be how his story ends. He's a 14-year-old boy!"
Fortunately, Weston rallied but would spend a week in the ICU. "He couldn't breathe on his own," says Amanda. "He had fractures in his face. He had a fracture in the back of his skull, a carotid artery that was torn. So, he had a lot of issues."
The collision had badly affected Weston's balance and mobility, but youth was on his side. And slowly, he began to recover.
"Every day it was little milestones," says Amanda. "It was him being able to be awake more. I mean, just little things, take a sip of water, you know?"
Along with his parents' support, Weston had that of the local baseball community.
"There's a tradition here at West Virginia [University] that after you win a baseball game or win a football game or whatever, the team all stands in line and puts their arms around each other and sings Country Roads," says Randy. "And our baseball team won their first game after he got injured. And instead of lining up on the foul line and singing Country Roads to the crowd like they normally do, they all drove to the hospital and lined up in the parking lot underneath his window, and he watched them through the window of the ICU."
Weston's recovery continued at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in treating brain and spin cord injury victims. There, his dream of playing baseball again gathered strength.
"While we were down there, there was a baseball field," says Weston. "And like me and my mom threw. And she threw, and I hit, and she hit me ground balls. That was kind of my whole goal was to get better so that I could go play baseball again and play sports."
Eventually, Weston recovered. And well ahead of schedule, he got back on the baseball field with his team, Flood City Elite.
Watch the video to see Weston's courage honored by the opposition ahead of his first at-bat.
"When I went up to the plate, everyone kind of like the outfielders took a few steps in. I was like, that's not fair. I'm just gonna hit over their heads now," says Weston. "But then they came and shook my hand, and that was really cool. Just everyone on the field, the coaches, all their players. That was was really special."
Happily, Weston suffered no lasting effects from his injury, but his family knows he had a lucky escape. The accident was every parent's nightmare. And so, to help others, the Mazey's set up teamwammer.com, which continues to raise funds to support families of children suffering from terrible injuries.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Baseball isn't always about winning, it's about moments like this