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December 6, 2010

NJ medics unsuccessful in saving teen hit by baseball

By Merry Firschein
The Herald News

GARFIELD, N.J. — A 16-year-old from Garfield died after he was struck in the chest by a baseball Friday during a club team practice, family members confirmed Saturday.

Thomas Anthony Adams, a sophomore at Garfield High School, played on the Braves, a Professional Baseball Instruction league travel team, based in Paterson.

"I dropped him off about 6:15, him and his two buddies," said Thomas' father, Thomas P. Adams. "They called me at 7 and said he had a bad accident."

Thomas, a catcher, was practicing with a pitcher when he was hit by a ball, his father said.

"He was catching and had all the gear on — including the chest protector — and he stood up and said 'I can't breathe,' and then he collapsed," said his uncle, Tim Adams.

"It makes no sense," Thomas' father said. "I know accidents happen, but 99 percent of the doctors [at the hospital] said this doesn't happen with a chest protector on."

Just before 7 p.m., the Fire Department received a call to respond to Paterson's Blessed Sacrament School, where the team was practicing in the gym, said Joseph Murray, deputy chief of the Paterson Fire Department. Emergency services workers, including city emergency medical technicians, Fire Department personnel and paramedics from St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, responded to find the boy in cardiac arrest, Murray said.

Thomas was pronounced dead about an hour after arriving at St. Joseph's, authorities said.

Tim Adams said police asked the family to turn over the chest protector for testing. No one at the Paterson Police Department was able to confirm that Saturday night.

This was the second year Thomas had played for the travel team, his uncle said.

Thomas started playing ball when he was 9, his father said.

"I played baseball kind of like him, through high school, and I was a catcher," said Thomas' father. "I showed him how to catch, and he said 'I'll be like daddy.' "

Baseball was Thomas' love, Tim Adams said. "All he talked about was playing ball. He just had a love for it."

Thomas wanted to be "the next Thurman Munson," his father said.

Garfield schools Superintendent Nicholas Perrapato said Thomas was a catcher on the high school's freshman team last year.

Thomas "was a good athlete and a good student," Perrapato said "Our hearts go out to the family. It's a tremendous loss to the community."

Thomas "just enjoyed himself in everything he did," Tim Adams said.

The teen worked hard in school, his father said. "He did his grades and his work, just like he did his sports," Thomas P. Adams said. "If he did [something], he was never going to quit it. He'll do it until he gets it right. That's not a bad habit."

The teen was overcoming some learning disabilities, Tim Adams said. "He struggled a lot but always worked through his adversities to get better and better," he said.

Members of the Garfield High School child-study team will be at the school today for several hours starting around noon, Perrapato said.

The school will be open "for any students who are having difficulty dealing with this," he said. "On Monday, we will have a full-blown crisis team at the school in the morning," he said.

Thomas' loss is "like a shock for this town," his father said. "You don't know how much people are loved until they are gone."

In 2006, Steven Domalewski, then 12, was struck in the chest by a line drive while pitching during a Wayne Police Athletic League game and dropped into a coma. He emerged brain-damaged, prompting a nationwide debate over the use of aluminum bats. Steven's road to recovery has been slow, but he has been able to take some steps.

Thomas' funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Gregory Barbarigo Church, 21 Cinder Road in Garnerville, Rockland County, N.Y., with burial at George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus.

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