Chase Gardner played a big role in Harford Tech making it to yesterday's Class 1A state baseball final. The junior third baseman led the team with a .539 average heading into the state semifinals, where he went 2-for-4.
Gardner says he feels fortunate just to be playing at all. He had to make a long recovery from an accident last summer, when he fell off a 3-foot ladder while working in a local retail store, breaking the right occipital bone in his head. He was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center and, despite not having surgery, he couldn't do any physical activity for six months.
Gardner said he didn't think he was going to be able to play this season, but everything cleared up in time for him to begin practice with the team in March. He had no problems after that. He's a member of the National Technical Honor Society and Health Occupations Students of America.
Do you remember much about the accident?
Yes, I remember pretty much everything. I remember waking up. I woke up in a puddle of wine, and the paramedics were standing over me. I remember flying to Shock Trauma and being rolled into there. I knew everything that was going on.
Did you realize this was going to be a serious situation?
I knew it was going to delay me. I knew it was trouble. I knew it was going to keep me out for a while. I was supposed to go to Dodgertown with a recruiting group, but that got canceled.
How scared were you that baseball wouldn't be part of your life again?
I was pretty scared. I didn't want to not be able to play again. I started playing baseball when I was 4 years old, and it's my favorite thing. I love to do it. I just wasn't sure what was going to happen.
When did you know that you had turned the corner and would be able to play this spring?
Right before the season, around February. I started playing catch, and then it all started to come back to me. I just didn't know how I'd react to it, things like reaction and timing. I was fine. I was about normal again when practice began. I was surprised because it was kind of a short time. I was surprised when I started playing well again.
What did you think about this year's team?
I knew we had a good team this year, and we had a good shot to go far. This was the year I thought we could do everything like go all the way, because we have a lot of returnees and had some good players coming up.
How much fun has this season been for you?
It's been fun because of what I came back from and of how good we're doing. People didn't expect us to do much because we're Harford Tech, but we've done it. It's just good because a lot of unexpected things happened. But we knew we could do it.
What have you learned from this experience?
I learned you have to stay strong, keep pushing and you will get back to where you started. You have to fight through the hard times if things are going bad, and everything will work out.
What will you be doing with baseball in the summer?
I'm going to play for a 15-19 league. ... I'm going to keep on working. ... I'm going to go to tournaments and try to get noticed.
What else has to be done regarding the injury?
It's all back to normal now. I went for my follow-up, and they said I'm all cleared. It's all done. I'll be working back at the same place this summer.