GARFIELD, N.J. (1010 WINS) – When Thomas Adams dropped his son Thomas Anthony Adams off at baseball practice and returned home, he never in a million years would have expected to find three people waiting at his front door with news of his son.
Thomas Anthony Adams took a pitch in the chest during warm ups, stood up, told his teammates he couldn’t breathe and collapsed. He died shortly after.
“I go in the hospital, all these doctors are trying to pump him back to life. I just sat there in shock,” Mr. Adams told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “I mean how could this be? Thirty minutes ago he was alive and the weird thing is he had all the protection so it’s… there’s no line to the reason.”
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Doctors told Mr. Adams that the boy had suffered a cardiac arrest.
The 16-year-old catcher was practicing for the winter world series in Paterson with the Braves, a travel team in the Professional Baseball Instruction League, and family and coaches said he was wearing his protective chest gear.
“I feel like it’s one of my sons, because we loved him a lot,” Tommy’s baseball coach, Carlos Rufino, said.
His family simply does not understand.
“It might be one of those things that nobody will ever be able to explain. We had to seriously look at the equipment. Did that absorb it or was it just medical?” his father wondered.
Tommy’s hit to the chest is raising questions over how it could kill him, even with his catcher’s gear on.
“A chest protector seems to make no difference at all, and that’s what’s really scary,” D. David Altcheck, who specializes in sports medicine, told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
Dr. Altcheck is team doctor for the New York Mets, and he said that Tommy’s death is a rare occurrence, as the heart literally skips a beat.
“It’s timing this hit, a pretty vigorous hit, to a certain point in the cardiac cycle, and if that event happens, this happens,” Dr. Altcheck said.
The sophomore, who also played for his high school team, had dreamt about playing baseball since he was 9 years old.
Around his room in Garfield, posters of baseball greats like Thurmon Munson, Yogi Berra and Derek Jeter hang on the wall.
He often joked with his dad about being the next Derek Jeter, even though Jeter never was a catcher.
When Mr. Adams was at the hospital, he helped console the teammate who had thrown the final pitch.
“He was crying. I said, ‘It’s alright.’ It might be one of those things that nobody can ever explain,” he said.
As the family prepares for the funeral, Mr. Adams just hopes they’ll find the answers about the equipment and maybe things can be changed for the good.
“It’s alright. I just hope something good comes out of this.”
Tommy’s grief-stricken father had a message for all parents.
“Don’t forget to say goodbye and that you love them, because you never know,” he said.
Tommy’s teammates will attend his funeral and mass on Monday in full uniform. An autopsy will determine the exact cause of death.