father of a major-league prospect recounts the swing that changed
his sons life
and took the life of a teammate.
I was leaning against
the fence at Lakewood High School in Carson, Calif., on July 10,
2000, watching our youngest son, Coba, play football. My cell phone
"Dad, what should I do?
I dont know what to do. I feel so helpless!"
It was Joshua, my oldest
son. The line crackled. I could hear his voice quivering 2,000 miles
away on the other end of the line in New York.
"Whats going on,
mijo [my son]," I asked.
"Something terrible happened,"
his voice choked out. "Im at the hospital here in Rochester.
The team members, our coaches
were all here at the
intensive care unit praying for Kelsey to come through. Something
horrible happened at practice today!"
"What happened?" I persisted.
"I hit the ball really
hard, Dad, just foul off the third-base line where Kelsey was crouching
ready to come home. It was a screaming line drive. It hit him right
on his temple!"
The Newark Volunteer
Fire Department had been called to Colburn Park field, home of the
Newark (N.Y.) Raptors of the Northeastern Collegiate Baseball League,
for which Josh and Kelsey were playing. Kelsey Osburn had then been
flown by helicopter to Strong Memorial Hospital a half hour away
in Rochester. Emergency surgery followed. Kelsey slipped deeper
into a coma.
"Why did God let this
happen? Do you think God will heal him? Could you pray for me Pops?"
Joshuas questions rushed out in a torrent overwhelming me.
I stammered out what I felt was a perfectly useless prayer. Then
we stood in silence. I didnt know what else to pray or how
to answer my sons questions.
Finally, Josh sighed
deeply. "I gotta go," he said. "Its my turn to go in. Im
staying by Kelsey. ... Bye, Dad. I love you."
"I love you too," I said.
"Im praying my head off for you."
We hung up.
I wanted to hold Kelsey.
I wanted to hold the whole team in my arms and wish the hurt away.
But I was too far away. Yet, I knew God wasnt.
You Want to Walk on Water, Youve Got to Get out of the
Mystery of Gods Will
Charles R. Swindoll
Psalm in Your Heart,
George O. Wood
here and look for the WANT MORE? link or call 1 800 641
I called my wife, Ritha,
immediately. After talking to Josh, she contacted her supervisor
and then purchased a ticket to Rochester. She was there the very
next day and met the Osburns Kelseys wonderful parents,
and Chaun, his brother.
Kelsey had previously
played for the University of Arizona Wildcats. He wore number 41.
Josh told me he was the best second baseman hes seen. He and
Josh hit it off right away that summer in Newark. Both boys loved
the Lord, both came from solid, loving homes, and for both of them
baseball was a passion.
Ironically, the Osburns
had just left Rochester to go back to Tucson the day of the accident,
having spent five days with Kelsey. They had attended a Raptor game
and visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Josh had tagged
along and the family had really connected with him.
Now, as their plane arrived
in Tucson, they received the tragic news. They returned immediately
to Rochester to find their son in a coma, fighting for his life.
I called back to the
waiting room that first night. The guys got Josh on the line.
"Are you OK?"
"No," he said. "Kelseys
not doing well. It doesnt look good, Dad. I have no strength
left. Were praying hard. I dont know if I ever want
to pick up a bat again!"
I prayed for Kelsey.
I prayed that God would hold the Osburns in His loving arms. I prayed
that my son would not be demolished, that his new friends would
still love him and, if possible, not hold bitterness in their hearts
for this accident that threatened Kelseys life.
One of my prayers was
immediately answered. When the Osburns arrived, Mrs. Osburn took
Josh into her arms and rocked him gently. "Its all right,
Josh," she whispered through her own tears. "We love you like our
son." She held Josh close as they cried together.
Mr. Osburn cupped Joshs
face in his big hands and wiped my sons tears aside with his
thumbs. "It was not your fault, Joshua," he sobbed. "This was a
freak accident. You should not feel guilty. God knows why this happened."
For six days Kelsey hung
on. Then the Lord chose to take him home.
In spite of his own sorrow,
Mr. Osburn was still thinking of my son. "Son," he told Josh, "dont
give up baseball. Keep laying down that bunt you and Kelsey were
Joshua returned to Southern
California to play for UCLA. And in a moving article written by
Adam Karon in UCLAs Daily Bruin, Karon reported how
Josh inscribed the letters "K.O." in his glove the following season.
"What do those letters mean?" he asked. "K.O. stands for Kelsey
Osburn," Josh told him. "I want to make sure he gets a little playing
time when Im on the field." In a heartwarming turn of events,
Skip Adams, UCLAs baseball coach, moved Josh from shortstop
to second base, Kelseys position at Arizona.
God is infinitely wise.
He held my son when I could not. He was with Josh and Kelsey and
the Osburns throughout their ordeal. He knew the Osburns love
for Josh was a miracle of freedom. It released Joshua to heal and
to seek the Lord above baseball or anything else. Josh has learned
to trust God in lifes hardest moments. Baseball has been put
in perspective. Even though hes gone on to play in the minors
for the Los Angeles Dodgers, God is first in his life. Today, Joshua,
23, sees professional baseball as a tool for sharing the love of
A handful of Raptors
played out the remainder of the summer of 2000. Many went home immediately
after the accident. Somehow they managed to come in third place.
Josh won League MVP. But his value to the team was in more than
bunts or base runs. Every game that season he led his teammates
in prayer in the left field corner.
I now look back with
a renewed perspective of faith on that fateful phone call on that
hot July afternoon when life had seemed so pleasantly normal. And
I realize that that tragic day had been no surprise to God. My sons
whole life in fact, generations leading up to his life
had all been part of the divine preparation needed to face Kelseys
sudden home going.
Joshua Brubaker Canales
was raised a Pentecostal boy with deep Assemblies of God roots in
two cultures. On his mothers side, his great-great-grandparents,
John and Lulu Waggoner, had founded First Assembly in Warren, Ohio.
On my side, his grandparents, Miguel and Lupe Canales, founded the
great Mision Ebenezer Family Church of Carson, Calif. Josh would
be the first to tell you it was his spiritual heritage and faith
in Christ that brought him through that fateful day.
His experience reminds
me of Romans 5:2-5: "Because of our faith, Christ has brought us
into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we
confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing Gods glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we
know that they are good for us they help us learn to endure.
And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character
strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation
will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because
he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love"
(New Living Translation).
Canales is president of Latin America Bible Institute in La Puente,
Calif., and pastor of Mision Ebenezer Family Church (Assemblies
of God) in Carson, Calif.
E-mail your comments