One could understand if Gunnison Valley (Utah) High baseball star Rylan Anderson had given up the sport he loves after his junior year. Despite all the promise in the world as both a pitcher and hitter, Anderson's entire future was thrown into doubt after he was injured by a fastball that struck him directly in his face.
As chronicled by the Salt Lake Tribune and here at Prep Rally, the fluke misjudged fastball during a game against Richfield (Utah) High left Anderson with major facial damage that required the then-junior to undergo significant medical evaluation to determine whether he had the impact had also affected his brain. It was eventually determined that Anderson's brain was fine, and that he could return to game action with a special protective facemask.
A year later, Anderson's triumphant return was completed when he was named the Tribune's Class 2A baseball MVP. It's an honor the graduating senior richly deserved after racking up a 9-0 record on the mound and impressive .488 at the plate while also leading the team's defense as a catcher when he wasn't pitching.
Thanks to Anderson's leadership, Gunnison Valley streaked to the program's first state title since 2008 as part of a 24-2 campaign which clearly wouldn't have been possible without Anderson and his ability to overcome the psychological scarring from his injury which he said contributed to Gunnison Valley's premature exit from the playoffs in 2011.
According to the Tribune, when the Bulldogs were eliminated in 2011, Anderson vowed that he would be back at full strength without any reservation as a senior. By doing just that, he brought glory and local fame for his school, all while proving that protective masks can work for pitchers as well.
"Just the whole experience was great," Anderson told the Tribune. "After going through the injury last year, I couldn't think of a better way to go out."