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Reardon '08 roaring back from leg injury

When Jeff Dietz, a former All-Ivy pitcher for Brown who is currently in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, asked Conor Reardon '08 to come take batting practice last fall, Reardon was hesitant. Though Reardon has played baseball since the age of four and currently leads the baseball team with a .368 batting average, he wasn't sure he would be able to handle it at the time.

Less than two years before then, Reardon was involved in an accident that left doctors wondering whether they would have to amputate his right leg - he was hit by a car while home in Connecticut in late 2005. Since then, Reardon has grappled with the uncertainty of whether he would regain function in his right leg, while battling through physical complications including nerve damage, vascular damage and scar tissue buildup.

In the months following the accident, Reardon had to rehabilitate his leg with simple exercises like walking and eventually progressing to work with weights. By March of 2006, doctors were hopeful that his leg would be strong enough to start jogging, but as soon as he tried, Reardon realized that this was not the case.

"When I started jogging, that's when it became clear that there was still a significant problem," Reardon said. "I couldn't jog for more than, probably, 45 seconds at a time."

After his efforts at physical therapy efforts failed, Reardon began to seek different doctors, in hopes that another operation could heal his leg and help him return to athletic action.

"I saw probably seven or eight doctors, and the final verdict was that there really wasn't anything they could do for it," Reardon said.

In addition to the physical difficulties, Reardon also had to face the emotional issues of being separated from a team that included all of his best friends and being torn away from the sport that had been a major part of his life for so long.

"My roommate was on the baseball team; a lot of my best friends were on the baseball team; and everybody was going on trips, playing games and talking about baseball all the time ­- and I wasn't doing it," Reardon said. "It really kind of messed with my head, and I was pretty off for a while. It was a pretty bad two years all around."

His teammates were understanding of the situation and supportive throughout.

"I felt terrible for him. I mean, it's a really hard thing to stop being part of a team suddenly like that, and you have to realize that those were all of his friends from freshman year," said Peter Moskal '08, Reardon's roommate and a pitcher for Brown. "He missed all the day-to-day jokes, the stuff going on with the team, and it must have been terrible to listen to all of us do our team stuff and realize he couldn't play."

Last summer, though, Reardon began to make progress. He started to spend time playing pickup basketball or throwing a football around with his friends and teammates, and they started thinking of the possibility that Reardon might make a comeback.

"He was starting to get some mobility back, and it looked like he might be able to do it," Moskal said.

Then, in the fall, when Reardon was interviewing Dietz for an assignment for his creative writing class, Dietz asked him to take batting practice.

"I was a little bit reluctant to do it, because any kind of physical activity, even walking, is kind of hellish on my leg," Reardon said.

But Dietz and Moskal convinced him to come down to the field one day, and Reardon surprised himself with his hitting ability.

"There were significant problems with my balance and stuff while I was in the batter's box, but my hands felt okay, and I felt all right," Reardon said. "The coach approached me and asked me if there was any possibility that I could play. My first thought was that I couldn't, because it would be pretty painful ... but he said that I should give it a shot anyway."

Head Coach Marek Drabinski was shocked at Reardon's ability to return after not being able to walk.

"He told me he'd like to give baseball another shot, and I was taken aback at first, like, 'Are you kidding me?' I thought his career was over," Drabinski said.

Doctors cleared him to play, and now Reardon leads the team with a .368 average, three doubles and five RBIs through the first seven games. It is unlikely that his leg will ever return to its pre-accident fitness, and as such, Reardon is limited to designated hitter and still has trouble running the bases.

"His running is suspect at best. ... The other teams aren't worried about him stealing any bases," Moskal joked. "But he's the best hitter on our team right now. Nobody cares how he runs down to first base, as long as he keeps getting hits."

Drabinski was equally as happy to have Reardon in the lineup.

"It's definitely been a lift, because everyone knew him, but I think the guys were in amazement that he could hit so well after not playing for years," he said.

As the student body gears up for spring break, this year's vacation will be especially significant for Reardon, who missed traveling with the team over the last two seasons. The team will be heading down to North Carolina and Virginia for the break.

"It's going to be just the baseball team, living in hotels, being on the road, playing in games, for ten days," Reardon said. "And when you're out of that loop, and everybody else is still in it, you're kind of, to an extent, on the outside, regardless of how close you remain with people when baseball isn't going on."

Reardon is now back in the loop and ready to lead the team to another Ivy League championship, but regardless of how the rest of the season pans out, Reardon has already surpassed all expectations, from his doctors, his teammates, his coaches and himself.


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