Wild Card

Chance Veazey, along with his other University of Georgia baseball teammates, were playing their last scrimmage game of the fall. Veazey’s opposing team was winning by a landslide in the last inning. According to Chance “It had been a long and exhausting fall. My freshman body was physically and mentally spent.” However, in that last inning he remembers giving every ounce of energy he could spare for the rest of that game. On his last bat of the game, he hit an astounding two-run homerun off the top of the scoreboard in the right field. However what he didn’t know was that that was the last swing he would ever make.

“I was on the pavement for several minutes staring into the sky before the ambulance arrived. At first I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I was in shock and then reality kicked in, and I realized that I couldn’t get up.” Chance Veazey’s memories from the next night are vague but unforgettable. On that night, he was in the Student Learning Center studying for an upcoming Psychology exam. He was driving his scooter that the athletic association provides for most University of Georgia athletes. As he was pulling out onto the intersection of Lumpkin and Baxter, a car abruptly turned left in front of him. He immediately reacted by laying his scooter on its side, which caused him to hit the pavement and slide directly into the oncoming car. “All that ran through my head was the pain in my back and the numbness in my legs. It felt like an eternity but the report says only about five minutes.” He doesn’t recall much after being loaded into the ambulance.

On the day after his accident, I was sitting on my back porch with five of my best friends. We were all seniors in high school, the same high school that Chance had graduated from the previous year, and we all knew him very well. One of my friends received the phone call that Chance had been in a serious accident and may be paralyzed or may not even survive at all. I’ll never forget the overpowering silence that took over as we all heard the news. Everyone had the same question in their mind, how could this happen to him? We all knew Chance as the friendliest guy in his grade, most of them were jerks, but he happened to be the exception. The days following his accident were not the same; everything I did, everywhere I went I was thinking about Chance and felt as if I were sharing his pain. Everyone in my hometown shared this feeling; our high school did not carry the same morale it had before.

Chance’s girlfriend at the time, Molly, created a Facebook page entitled “Prayers for Chance” to post updates about his condition. This was how my friends and I kept up to date with his condition and progress. She would post things such as “Chance had his first drink this morning! …his bowels are starting to function and they just got him to sit up in bed by himself for 7 minutes!” All of the updates were small, yet significant aspects of his journey that everyone  interested in. Those closest to Chance created a fundraising event called “Cheers for Chance” to help the Veazey family raise money for impending medical expenses; nearly everyone who knew Chance showed up, the turnout was incredible.

Ultimately the result of the crash left him with paralysis from his belly button down. His  broke in half, severing his spinal cord in two. Chance stayed in St. Mary’s hospital for five days after the incident. He said that the people responsible for helping him get through those initial five days were his friends, family, and the Athens community. Unfortunately what he remembers the most about that time period was the sharp pain he incessantly felt in his back. He was moved to the Shepherd spinal cord and brain injury center on the 3rd of November.

About 3 weeks after that accident is when Chance believes he began to accept what had happened and began to change his perspective on his situation. Within those first 3 weeks “[he] just couldn’t understand why it had happened to [him]. [He] felt like there was no one like [him] at Shepherds and that [he] didn’t belong.” Chance told me “I witnessed other kids of all ages with worse injuries than mine, who are going to require assistance for the rest of their lives. They helped drive me and provided me with motivation.”

Now Chance is at peace with his situation, mainly because he knew he had lived his life, prior to the accident, to the fullest and had always lived each day like it was his last. “I loved life and gave it everything I had each day. If I hadn’t lived that way, especially with baseball, I’m not sure I could have lived with myself.” That last scrimmage game he played provides him with so much happiness today because he knows he played that game as if it were his last, even though he had no idea that it actually would be. “I guess that was the way to go, and I feel like that last at bat basically defines how I lived my life then and now.”

Chance still attends the University of Georgia and carries an assistant position on the University of Georgia Baseball team. He lives with 5 of his closest friends from baseball and lives a completely independent lifestyle. He still goes to the baseball field nearly every day, travels with the team, and lifts weights with them. Chance aspires to be a State Farm Insurance Agent one day like his father, but his dream job would be having his own outdoor show or becoming a baseball coach.

Although being dealt such a great challenge in life, Chance has prevailed through his situation astonishingly. It only took him a mere three weeks to come to peace with his situation, and ever since he has had a smile on his face. It is truly amazing to see someone in this situation have such a positive, optimistic outlook on life. Never once has he let his disabilities prevent him from pursuing his greatest passions in life; from hunting, to baseball, to his career. Chance Veazey has and will always be an unstoppable, and admirable, force to recon with.

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