The Riverdale High School baseball team continues to play with baited breath, while their pitcher struggles to breathe on his own.
The Warriors took the field Thursday night against the Ooltewah Owls without #24 Clay Riggs.
High school baseball season started just one day after Riggs was hospitalized with a mysterious illness.
“I think it's taken a toll on us a little bit,” said Coach Barry Messer.
Riggs, an almost overwhelming six foot, eight inch pitcher, underwent knee surgery at the end February to repair damage done by his quick growth. Less than two weeks later, Riggs got sick.
On March 10, the high school junior was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. His lungs were failing.
“To take a 16- to 17-year-old, healthy kid and just be fine on one day, and the next his lungs just aren't operating the way they should, it's a very humbling experience,” said Coach Barry Messer.
Riggs remains at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. On Thursday, he began to take in air on his own, using the ventilator to exhale only. The full extent of his recovery is unknown.
Back at 'The Reservation,' the Warriors' home field, his team plays ball.
“It's on our hearts all the time. We're trying to win for him all the time,” King said. “Play for #24.”
“We got to get the 'W' for him,” said Garrett League, catcher for the team.
Players realize now more than ever that the score is just a number, and a matchup is just a game.
“It starts and it's done within a matter of two hours,” Coach Messer said. “What he's going through is real.”
For the Riverdale High School Warriors, keeping an eye on the ball is not as important as keeping a hand to the heavens.
“It lets me know he's in good hands,” said League.
“Prayer is the best tool for us, because we can't really do anything except pray,” added King.
Doctors do not yet know the direct cause of Riggs' illness or if his knee surgery is related.
The won Thursday against Ooltewah, 3-1. The team's next home game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday against the Farragut Admirals.
- March 24, 2013: High school athlete is hospitalized; breathing with ventilator