Grand Valley senior back on the diamond months after accident nearly cost him his life
Doctors told him he might lose his leg. He could have lost his life.
Yet, on a frigid, windy Friday afternoon in Parachute, Jacob White stood and fielded grounders with grace matching that of his teammates. Lined up as a second baseman, he took throws from third and whipped the ball across his body to first base.
Look closely and you notice a slight limp, but you certainly would not guess that, just a few months back, a 22-inch piece of iron pierced its way all the way through White’s left thigh.
There’s no way he could possibly be out there so soon, fielding grounders and playing the sport he loves.
How did he do it?
“I don’t know,” the Grand Valley High School senior said with a look of disbelief. “It’s a miracle. There has to be a higher power or something. I don’t know. They were telling me I might not have a leg, and now I’m out here playing baseball. It’s a miracle.”
Three weeks at St. Mary’s Hospital, roughly five surgeries and countless follow-up procedures. Months of exhaustive physical therapy, which started with merely trying to bend his leg.
He spent weeks in a wheelchair and later needed a cane to get around.
The days, weeks and months since Oct. 31, 2012, have been trying, to say the least. But the prospect of playing baseball for the Cardinals in the spring fueled White’s comeback push from an accident in auto shop class that reshaped White’s life.
White had just finished up an oil change and went to close the hood when it happened. And, even though he wishes he didn’t, he remembers almost every detail.
“All of a sudden, I look up, and the kid’s starting the truck and it’s in gear,” he said, recalling that fateful Halloween day. “It just hopped out because it was a standard.”
The automobile pinned White against a piece of machinery behind him. A warm feeling coursed through his leg, which then started to feel numb.
His first thought: “I’m pinned. I have to get this truck off me.”
Then he looked down.
“I see the thing sticking out of my leg three inches and just blood. I was like, ‘This can’t be real. This can’t be happening right now. When am I going to wake up?’ That was when I got really light-headed and passed out.”
Turns out, the machine’s long iron guide skewered his leg, leaving both main arteries severed.
Emergency responders used the Jaws of Life to cut the guide off the machine. The strip of metal remained in White’s leg during his ride to St. Mary’s.
“If they had pulled the piece of metal out, he would have bled out and died,” said Jacob’s father, Scott White.
Many have heard Jacob’s tale, but few realize just how close he came to losing either his life or his leg that day.
“You’ve got to realize he almost lost his life,” Scott said. “People don’t realize that. When we got to the emergency room, the doctors said right up, ‘Don’t be surprised if you come out of surgery and you’re missing a leg.’ “
For an active teenager who plays three sports — football, basketball and baseball — losing a limb is an unbearable thought. But that worst-case scenario did not come to fruition.
“I woke up and I had both of them,” Jacob said, “and I was like, ‘I’m going to play baseball. I’ll be ready.’ “
Sure enough, by the time Grand Valley’s March 16 season-opening doubleheader against Gunnison came around, White was ready.
“That’s the only thing that kept me through,” said Jacob, who turned 18 on March 13. “I could have given up and felt sorry for myself, but I said, ‘No, I’m going to get through this. I’m going to be out on the baseball field.’ “
That’s Jacob for you.
“It’s amazing that he’s even out there,” Scott said. “He’s about 50 percent, but that’s the type of kid he is. ... Once he got out of (the intensive care unit), our plan was for him to play baseball. I said, ‘The only limitations are what you set for yourself. I don’t care what the doctors say.’ “
Even if Jacob’s only at 50 percent health, he’s playing with 100 percent hustle. Exhibit A: The No. 3 hole hitter tweaked his hamstring sliding into third base during Tuesday’s game at Rifle.
That’s nothing atypical for a kid who once suited up for a football game with cracked ribs.
“From the time I heard he wanted to be back for baseball season, I had no doubt he’d be ready to go,” Grand Valley baseball coach Jacob Gray said. “He’s bounced back like a champ.”
“We have to be careful to keep him down when he starts hurting,” said Scott, who volunteers his time to help coach Grand Valley’s baseball team. “We do have to pull the plug on him sometimes and tell him to chill out.”
Jacob hopes those aggressive slides into third base continue at the college level.
“We’re hoping he gets some schools looking at him and stuff like that,” Scott said. “His attitude now is, ‘I’ll just be a walk-on. I’ll show ‘em.’ “
By merely fielding grounders at Friday’s practice, deftly maneuvering to his right and left to scoop up the baseball, Jacob showed he has the mettle to squash any obstacle.
He made it back to the diamond in the most dire of circumstances. What’s to stop him now?
“That’s my mind-set,” he said. “Keep on working hard, never stop, and you can achieve great things. Now I know I can overcome a lot of stuff. When things get rough, keep on moving forward. There will be a brighter day.”