LONGMONT — All along, Tyler Hoog knew this would be one of the toughest days of his recovery.
Turns out, it wasn’t so bad.
A junior at Skyline High School, Hoog returned to the Falcons’ baseball diamond for the first time since a Jeep accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down in August.
“I thought I’d have a much harder time than I did, yeah,” said Hoog, who likely would have been Skyline’s starting first baseman. “It was a little hard at first, but it’s nice to be able to be out here again.”
Hoog — the son of Skyline head coach Mike Hoog — spent several weeks at a rehabilitation center in Atlanta during the fall and during his stay went on a field trip with other patients to Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves. That visit was difficult for Hoog, who grew up in a baseball family and has loved the sport most of his life.
Saturday’s game could have had the same impact, as it served as a reminder that Hoog won’t be playing his favorite sport anymore, but he actually enjoyed being back.
“Originally what I was thinking was that I didn’t really want to come because then it was real, but it makes it nice once again to be able to do it,” said Hoog, who didn’t attend any practices this spring.
Before the game, Skyline paid tribute to Hoog, whose No. 17 jersey hangs in the dugout.
“It wasn’t easy to hear,” he said. “It was a little rough, but it’s nice.”
Hoog spent the entire game in the dugout watching his teammates defeat Montbello 10-0. His teammates placed a protective net in front of him so he could be near the edge of the dugout to see and not risk getting hit by a ball.
“I know they’re excited to see him,” Skyline assistant coach Dale Nehls said. “The recovery part of it for Tyler is more beneficial than it is for our team. For me, it means the world.”
Nehls believes Hoog’s presence did help a bit, though.
“They came out and they got a little bit of inspiration from Ty,” Nehls said. “(Senior pitcher Brandon Moore) had a couple little hiccups before he went out there, just touching moments for him and it should be touching for him. It should be something that all these kids remember somewhere along the way that Ty is really a big part of our program and he always will be.”
That was certainly evident throughout the game, as Hoog laughed and joked with teammates from the first inning to the last. He also stayed engaged with how the game played out.
“It’s not an easy thing to see him come out here and have to do what he’s doing,” Nehls said. “But, he handles it so well. He’s grown so much.”
Brian Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.