An update on AJ
Being able to cover Major League Baseball for the past six years has afforded my opportunities to witness unbelievable moments and to meet unforgettable people. One of those most impactful encounters, though, came not at an All-Star Game or a playoff game, but out on the backfields of a Spring Training complex in Bradenton, Fla.
That’s where I met AJ.
There was something about AJ that drew me over to observe. As he sat in his wheelchair, several Pirates players and coaches gathered around him. All were smiling, laughing, sharing stories. AJ was, too. At the time, I didn’t know AJ. But I knew I had to learn his story.
And so I did, and I shared it with readers last March. He had been a once-promising prospect, who, after his career fizzled out, remained connected with the organization through his upstart BBQ business. Then there was a New Years Eve car crash, one that, if you look at pictures of the car, should have taken AJ’s life. When I met him, he was still in the beginning stages of recovery — mentally, emotionally, physically. But he was also using baseball to heal.
I know many of you who began reading this blog after I transitioned over to the Cardinals likely didn’t read about AJ before. I invite you to now. But for those Pirates readers who did get to know AJ and have asked about his recovery, I have an update for you. Earlier this week, I received an email from AJ’s father, Larry, who was so gracious with his time last year. He passed along this news, which he gave me permission to share:
I wanted to follow up with you to again thank you for taking the time last year to interview AJ and write such a wonderful article. He’s back to probably 90-95% overall. Physically, it’s difficult to see any difference. He coached baseball this spring at the local HS and helped a friend with his son’s Little League team. Mentally, he only shows slight residual issues ,mostly when he gets words wrong or statements that don’t make 100% sense. A person that didn’t know of his accident might not actually know the difference however.
He continues to stay very connected to the Pirates and Pirate City. They have hired him several times to cook for different events and been wonderful making him to continue to feel like part of the family.
We’re just thankful he’s doing so well. His personality has changed a little bit. Mostly for the better as he is even more ‘Family’ oriented and engaged more with aunts/uncles and especially young cousins and nephews. He has been VERY tuned into those that took time to come see him, take care of him and follow-up with him.
After spending extensive time with AJ and his family, I never had any doubts that he would recover. But Larry’s email still made my day.
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