Hope. Renewal. Optimism. We hear those words at the beginning of every baseball season, but they may never be more fitting than for Gunnar Sandberg. And on his team's first game of the year, we might add another word. Miracle.
That is what Gunnar told ESPN Tuesday morning. An understatement, considering all that he and his family have been through.
It took just one pitch, and one line drive off the head to nearly kill him, last year. Gunnar spent weeks in coma fighting for his life, while Marin Catholic High School and the high school baseball world rallied around him. The road back has not been easy.
"It's a lot harder now because of my memory; I can't remember what is going on in school, too much, but, I'm doing pretty well," Gunnar said.
Comebackers have always been a part of baseball at all levels, but aluminum bats have a larger sweet spot, which increases the odds of a hotshot doing damage. This year, due much to Gunnar's injury, multiple baseball organizations in California and Virginia have switched to less dangerous bats. They may still be made of metal, but they do not hit the ball as hard.
"We're hoping they're deadened enough to replicate the performance of wood bats," Gunnar's father, Bjorn Sandberg, said.
As for the kid who began it all, Gunnar just wants to graduate with his class. Having granted that one national interview to ESPN, his father has asked for privacy and normalcy, along with all the other rites of spring.
They would include his first official at bat of the year.
Let the record show that Gunnar bunted, making a close out at first. But he's in and he's back. And baseball is just a game, again.