My son's team, Lancaster Blue, was facing another 10 and under travel team from Clarence Saturday afternoon.  The score was tied 8-8 going into the fourth inning on what was likely one of the hottest days of the summer.  10-year-old Riley Dirschberger was on the mound as Blue battled to stay in the game.  A few plays into the inning, Riley was struck in the head by a hard hit line drive shot up the middle.  It was like a bullet.  We heard the "ping" when the ball went off the bat, and then heard Riley cry out and saw him fall over.  My son later told me the ball went off Riley's forehead and rolled toward him at third base as parents and coaches ran to the mound.  The moments that ensued were among the most gut wrenching I've ever experienced at a youth sporting event, and yet the most amazing. 

Our boys on the field had fallen to one knee as everyone tended to Riley. People came from all directions to offer ice, umbrellas for shade, water and whatever else was needed.   Riley's father was by his side, thankfully he's experienced dealing with sports injuries. 

Coaches from both teams noticed how distraught Riley's teammates were on the field, and pulled them out of the sun and into the shade of a nearby tree.  It was then I realized how shaken my son, Ryan, and some of the other boys were.  Ryan and Riley have been friends since they were about two years old.  Ryan's teammate Bryce put his hand on Ryan's head as another friend, JP, talked to him.  They're only 10, but their maturity went way beyond their years.  The same was true for the girls at the game.  Riley's sister sat quietly with friends, with tears running down her cheeks.  The other sisters were there for her as well.  Everyone was trying to hard to remain calm, but there were watery eyes everywhere you looked. 

There were no EMT's on site.  (Something we have since learned is more typical at youth sports than you would think.)  9-1-1 was ultimately called.  I noticed people had begun to gather for the next game scheduled on the field.  A stranger standing near began to cry as we waited.  When the ambulance got there, one of our coaches and Riley's mom sprinted across the park to help them find the right field.  Parents cleared the way for the ambulance to make its way on to the diamond.    It took some time, but thanks to the amazing parents and coaches, Riley was on his way to the hospital.  Everyone on our team pulled together to gather up all of the family's belongings, give rides to the hospital and do whatever else had to be done. 

Our coaches forfeited the game.  (Riley was a little upset when he heard the news later.)  The team gathered in the dugout for a group prayer for Riley.  (I heard one of our coaches also talked to the boy who hit the ball, letting him know it was not his fault.  Someone else told us the boys parents found Riley's mom, and they hugged and cried together as we waited for help.) 

There were so many tears.  We've all heard stories about kids getting hurt playing ball, pitchers getting hit with line drives.  Sometimes, they don't end well.  We are all so fortunate to be able to say Riley is alright.  

The experience brought out the very best in everyone involved.  The Clarence team showed great class, as did several other local teams in the tournament including those from North Buffalo and the A-Turf independent team.  Our coaches were amazing.  Our boys were amazing.  Every family on the team came together that evening to wait for word on how Riley was doing.  Each time we heard back encouraging news, the kids cheered.  Finally, Riley showed up.  One coach compared his arrival to a "rock star."  The experience was traumatic and very emotional.  It was also nothing short of a miracle. 

The next day we were back at the ballpark.  Our boys took the field, and yes our pitchers took the mound.  Someone gave Riley the ball that hit him.  The Clarence team brought goodie bags for our boys.  We lost the game, but gained something I'm not sure I can even describe.  It was all so overwhelming. 

Our team was lucky.  If the injury would have been worst, there was no EMT on site at the tournament.  Apparently, that's not unusual.  Do you think first responders should be at youth sporting events?