Follow us:

Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

May 7, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Sam’s incurable disease and a crazy dream come true at Safeco Field

Sam Bridgman had to stop playing baseball, but he never gave up the game he loves.  Photo by Steve Gibbons, University of Portland Athletics, 2012

Sam Bridgman had to stop playing baseball, but he never gave up the game he loves.
Photo by Jeff Kennel, University of Portland Marketing Department, 2011

BY SAM BRIDGMAN

Every kid has a dream. This was mine.

Standing on the pitcher’s mound in a major-league ballpark going against a full count, two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth with a 2-1 lead. The adrenaline rushing through my veins. My heart beating faster than it ever has.

Baseball was my life. It was a part of me. I lived and breathed the sport that America calls the National Pastime. I played Little League growing up and practiced with my Mom and Dad whenever I got the chance. I made sure I did each drill right every time. I remember spending hours and hours at the ballpark doing drills again and again. Practice makes perfect, right?

As I got older, my body began to change, along with my friend’s bodies. Yet somehow I was getting worse at baseball while my friends were excelling at it. During my freshman year at Nathan Hale High School, I got cut from the baseball team. I didn’t even make the freshman squad and didn’t play high-school baseball that spring. I would never play organized baseball ever again.

Sam Bridgman's refuses to give up on himself or the game he loves.  Photo by Steve Gibbons, University of Portland Athletics, 2012

Sam Bridgman’s refuses to give up on himself or the game he loves.
Photo by Steve Gibbons, University of Portland Athletics, 2012

In the summer of 2006, my family and I learned that I have Friedreich’s Ataxia, called FA for short. Through many doctor’s visits, we were told that FA is a genetic, progressive, life-shortening neuromuscular disease that causes loss of coordination from the toes to the fingertips. Symptoms include scoliosis, diabetes, and worst of all, heart disease. FA will eventually cause me to use a wheelchair full time. Daily tasks will become nearly impossible. There is no treatment and no cure.

At first, my world was shattered. My dream of standing on that pitcher’s mound and playing for a Major League Baseball team was obliterated. I didn’t know what to do. I did not want to lose the game I loved. So I made a choice.

I became student manager for the Nathan Hale High School baseball team the next spring. It did not feel like I was just the student manager, however. I went to every practice, wore a uniform on game days and was treated as if I was one of the players. All the while, I was losing the ability to do things like tie my shoes and run from home plate to first base.

I made it out of high school without having to use a wheelchair, but was not as lucky in college. During my freshman year at the University of Portland, I was forced into a wheelchair part time. A year later, I had to use one full time. I now switch between a power and manual chair and do not stand unless I am holding onto something.

This progressive disease has taken away my ability to play the sport I love, but I have not let baseball leave my life. I strive to live every day to the fullest! No matter the challenge, I keep moving forward! With the help of friends and family, anything is possible!

Sam Bridgman throws out the ceremonial first pitch at the Mariners game on Thursday, May 8.  Dean Rutz / Seattle Times staff

Sam Bridgman throws out the ceremonial first pitch at the Mariners game on Thursday, May 8.
Dean Rutz / Seattle Times staff

My dream – part of it, at least – will come true Thursday night. As a part of a fundraiser for the school’s athletic department back in December 2013, the Nathan Hale High School Booster Club presented me with the Champion Award and the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Seattle Mariners game May 8 at Safeco Field. I am beyond excited to throw out the first pitch in front of my friends and family and to represent Nathan Hale High School.

Even though my body doesn’t work the way I want it to, my smile still works, my laugh still works, the way I think still works, and most important, the things I feel in my heart still work. Every day of mine will be filled with love, as long as I live!

Sam Bridgman, 22, was born and raised in Seattle, where he went to Nathan Hale High School. His dream of becoming a professional baseball player ended at 15, when he was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia. He later graduated from the University of Portland, where he was the baseball team’s manager. Bridgman works at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

Comments

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►