This past Thanksgiving, Coach Carl thought he had a sore on his back that just wouldn't go away. Eight surgeries in 10 days later, Carl was in a medically-induced coma and was fighting for his life. He had an infection that had spread throughout his body, through his bloodstream and to his spinal cord. Doctors were forced to cut away huge sections of his abdomen to remove the infection and give Carl a fighting chance. Carl coded several times and was brought back to life. After several weeks in a coma, he awoke to the staggering realization that he had no feeling past his shoulders.
Carl is still in the hospital today. He was tranferred from the amazing team at Rex Hospital, to whom he owes his life, to the fantastic spinal rehabilitation center that exists right here at Wake Med. He has regained some motion in his arms and wrists. He can scratch his head, sort of, which is a huge relief after three months of sponge baths and trying to explain exactly where it itches. He thinks he can feel his big toes moving, just a little. He hopes to be able to feed himself sooner than later and to privately call his girlfriend on the phone.
Let’s Get Coach Carl Back On the Field
I met Coach Carl four years ago, when I was eleven years old. The first year I played for him, he took a team of kids, some of whom who couldn’t hit or catch a baseball to an undefeated season, all the way to the championship. He believed that every single one of us could get on base, and he taught us to believe in ourselves. We had extra practices, ran extra laps, and did whatever we could to be the best team we could be. That’s the thing that sticks out the most in my mind; he taught me how to care for the team, and he taught me that the team cared for me; the scrawny right fielder turned second baseman utility player. He took a group of boys, most of which hadn’t ever met, and he taught them to be a family, and I believe that’s why we went to the championship, because we were a family.
After a rough offseason, I showed up to the baseball field first the next year. After seeing Carl for the first time again, a real smile crossed my face for the first time in a long time. I was one of the few returning Mets, as most of us moved up to the older league, but this didn’t bother me. Seeing Carl was enough. The Mets became my stability and my newfound family. Carl was a paintbrush for my black and white still framed world. Maybe it was from my determination, or maybe it was because I cared for the team so much, but that year, I went from being the utility player to being the starting pitcher and shortstop, batting second in the order, and named team captain. In this role, I was supposed to get into the opposing teams’ heads by being so loud that they couldn’t focus on what they were doing, and I did just that. I came up with chants, I called out how many outs there were and where the play was going, gave everyone nicknames, got the energy up, whatever I needed to do to get us to be the best team we could be. Some of my favorite memories are from standing in the dugout, surrounded by my best friends, each of us trying yell the nickname of the batter louder than the rest. Those were some of the greatest moments I’ve ever come across.
The one memory from that season that really sticks out is the rained out practice. It was a warm June evening, and that afternoon, it poured, like really really poured. For a solid thirty minutes, a small monsoon occurred. However, about fifteen minutes before our scheduled practice, Carl sent out an email essentially telling us that he was at the field, and that if anybody wanted to come out, they were welcome. I showed up, met by only Carl. For about two hours, he threw batting practice to me. In the duration of those two hours, Carl fixed my swing, and got me out of my hitting slump I was in. Little did he know, I was in a bit of an emotional slump as well, and that day, the day of the two-hour unofficial rained out practice, was the day that I subconsciously decided to finally just be happy with myself again.
So thank you Carl,
Specifically from me, but from Polk, Nash, Logan, Xavier, Zach, Anton, Nick, Erik, Ryan, Henry, and everyone else you’ve ever changed.
Finnegan Waits (Diva) Degnan.
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