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Hess gives Grace lots of inspiration

May 09, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

Brandon Hess had no batting average and no pitching record this season for the Grace Academy baseball team, but as an inspirational leader, he had unbeatable numbers.

Last Aug. 30, Hess was in a severe accident involving farm machinery and the lower part of his left leg -- from about four inches below the kneecap -- was torn off.

His future on the baseball diamond would be curtailed -- or would it?

"I was on my back for five weeks, but doctors always said there was a chance," said Hess, who turned 18 in March.

Fitted with a prosthetic, Hess began the long road to recovery. His father, Dean, and Grace coach Mark Sandell actually had a goal for him to return to active duty on the diamond in time for Grace's regular-season home finale this past Thursday on Senior Day.

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It wasn't to be, but Hess was on the mound -- without a crutch on his left side -- to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

"Two years ago Brandon hit .700 and last year was nearly .500," said Sandell. "He has been a true inspirational leader for all of us. He is like an assistant coach on the field. He has not missed a game. We had a recent doubleheader and he was here for the first game, had to go to therapy and came right back for the rest of the second game."

Hess wore his uniform top -- No. 1 -- as he has all season when he strode to the mound. He has progressed to the point where his gate is not too pronounced, with or without a crutch.

He continues with therapy and has not lost hope of returning.

"If I can do it and the opportunity comes along to play some summer ball, I'll give it a try," said Hess. "At least I've been out here helping out. I'd be a lot happier playing."

His accident occurred at a farm in Millersville, Pa., where he and another co-worker were cutting corn.

He was on the end gate of a truck as they were throwing cornstalks into a chopper. He slipped off the gate of the truck into the chopper.

His father, Dean, said he didn't believe what had happened when he first got the phone call with the news of the accident.

"His leg was already off and wrapped in ice by the paramedics," said Dean Hess. "He was in shock and airlifted to the trauma unit in York, Pa., and was there for four weeks. He spent another week at the hospital in Chambersburg. He still goes for therapy to the Grove Medical Center."

Brandon Hess knew what happened immediately.

"The pain was awful," he said, "and the first month or two afterward were tough."

He was fitted with the prosthetic in mid-January and, after getting accustomed to it, now wears it from the time he begins his day around 7 a.m. until he packs in around 11 p.m.

"I'm getting used to it. I feel stronger," he said.

"The thought of still playing summer baseball keeps him going," said his father.

Brandon Hess said college is not in his immediate plans. He'll return to work on the farm for one or two years, and then reevaluate.

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