By R. Alan Richardson
Last week there was a front page article about our 7-8 year-olds winning a state championship here in our hometown in convincing fashion. There was one story that fell between the lines that involved a young man on that team who fought all the odds and came through like a true champion. His name is Davis Strickland. This was a team of all-stars, but this little fellow was the all-star of the team.
On June 16th Davis was attending the University of Georgia baseball camp and got hit in the head during batting practice with a metal bat on the left temple that day. His dad, Jim Strickland, said, “It didn’t’ knock him down or really hurt. It just made him dizzy. He was checked out thoroughly by the baseball trainers and head coach Scott Stricklin as he was given concussion protocol and passed 100%. He played in the camp scrimmage and hit a homerun, but they told me to keep an eye on him. It was good advice. I was alert and watching him the next day.”
Davis seemed to be a little more talkative than usual to his father the next day and attended an all-star scrimmage with the state championship squad. Mr. Strickland commented, “I dropped him off for batting practice and got back about an hour later. One of the players came out and told me that Davis was complaining about his head hurting and I needed to come and check on him at practice. He was sitting on the end of the bench with glassy eyes. I took him home and put him in the bath tub thinking he might have heat exhaustion, but he kept complaining about his head hurting. I called my good friend, Jeff Guy, who is the head of baseball operations at UGA and we went straight to Athens Regional where Shawn Boland met us. He’s the head athletic trainer at UGA. They had everything set up for us. Davis was throwing up on the way to Athens and passed out on the way. It was not a smooth ride to say the least.”
The doctors did a cat scan and determined that he had bleeding and blood clots on the brain and was immediately life-flighted to Scottish Rite Hospital for brain surgery. It’s known as an epidermal hematoma. He was sedated and a breathing tube was inserted. When Jim arrived there were about 15 people waiting and the tough guy was in surgery within 25 minutes. The operating surgeon explained the procedure that took about two hours to stop the bleeding and put him back together.
His mother, Ellen Stickland, was on a family vacation in South Florida when she got the news. She said, “Jim called me and all I heard was he was in an accident, bleeding on the brain, breathing tube, was life-flighted, brain surgery. I felt completely helpless because there was absolutely nothing I could do. I would have moved Heaven and Earth to be with my son, but the earliest I could leave for Atlanta was the next morning.”
Ellen went on to tell about some other miraculous events that took place that night. “My friends started a group text to spread the word, and a miracle unfolded before my eyes. My sweet friend, Kathryn Simms, got the text and she was sitting in the parking lot of Scottish Rite praying for a patient. She observed the helicopter landing and it was Davis! She parked and went upstairs to be with our family. She is also the one who helped coordinate her company’s private plane to come and pick us up in Florida and bring me home to my son. The pilot’s name, Joe Fendig, flew all night just to lend a helping hand. I’m forever grateful and thankful to them both!”
Of course, we had to interview the Comeback Kid and it was fun. He was asked about what his future plans were. In typical eight-year-old fashion he said, “I’d really like to get a new PS4 system.” It was hilarious. Jim then told his son that the question was more about his baseball career and Davis said, “Oh, I’d like to break Hank Aaron’s home run record because Barry Bonds doesn’t count. He cheated. I’d also like to hit one out of Dodger Stadium.” I hear you boy!
Davis came through the surgery with flying colors and was back on the field on July 16th, exactly one month after brain surgery. Coaches Andrew Ainslie and Danny Tillery both agreed that it was truly miraculous that he was back on the field. Ainslie said, “When Davis went out on that field to pinch run and play an inning in the field in the state championship game, the parents, players, and everyone attending were standing and cheering for him and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including me.” Tillery commented, “There’s no doubt that God was all over this. It was amazing to watch.”
When Davis ran onto that field that day, the crowd went wild. Mrs. Strickland added, “I looked over to my friends and they all stood up yelling his name. I just lost it. The coaches and parents loved him like he was their own. He was out there one month after a horrific accident that could have cost him his life. It was a great day to see him run out on the field. It was the most amazing sight even if it was just for a few short minutes to tag a base. For that, he is our champion.”