Family and friends, local business and civic leaders and baseball folks from across the country are putting on their running shoes and opening up their hearts and pocketbooks in an effort to benefit a seriously injured former college baseball player.
“Compassion Dash 2011: Jogging for the Jaegers” is a special event being organized to raise badly needed funds for 23-year-old Bryan Jaeger and his family in Haughton, La.
Jaeger, a participant at Perfect Game events in 2004-05, was paralyzed from the chest down following a freak accident he suffered at the beginning of his sophomore year at Louisiana State University-Eunice in October, 2006.
“Jogging for the Jaegers” is a 1-Mile Fun Run and 5K-Run organized by the First Baptist Church of Haughton’s Women’s Ministry. It is scheduled to take place in Haughton on April 30.
Money will be raised through donations, pledges and registration fees and will be used so the Jaeger family can purchase a specially equipped van to transport Bryan, and also make necessary modifications to their home.
“I know we’re going to have a lot (of runners) and sponsor-wise we’re getting very good response,” race coordinator Shana Houston said. “People are very excited about it … and it’s been too long for this happen.”
Jaeger, at LSU-Eunice on a baseball scholarship, was on his way to play a recreational game of mud football with some of his friends when he slipped and fell head-first into a drainage ditch, resulting in a serious spinal injury.
The severity of the injury was almost immediately recognizable to LSU-Eunice head baseball coach Jeff Willis, who accompanied Bryan on his initial trips to two hospitals. Something else was evident to Willis: Bryan’s unwavering faith in God.
“You will not meet any finer people in this world (than the Jaegers) or a finer individual than Bryan,” Willis wrote in an email. “I remember riding in the ambulance with him from here on campus to the hospital in Eunice and then to Lafayette, and Bryan saying ‘Everything happens for a reason’ – at a time when he could not feel anything.”
Jaeger has since undergone extensive physical therapy and has gained some range of motion in his arms but is “very limited” with small motor function in his hands. He has had setbacks over the 4½ years since the accident, but his faith is strong and he refuses to accept defeat.
“On October 20, 2006, I had a doctor tell me I would never walk again and would have very little arm function. That night I knew I had to prove him wrong, and I have,” Jaeger wrote on the website compassiondash.com. “I have put my faith in God and He will give me what He wants me to have in return. I will never give up.”
Jaeger began playing baseball when he was 4-years-old and always played at the highest level. After being observed at the Perfect Game ID Camp LA in Shreveport, La., in June 2004, then 16-year-old Bryan Jaeger received staccato-quick encouragement from a Perfect Game scout:
“… good balance/quick approach/fast bat speed/good rotation/contact type hitter/uses all fields/shows gap power/controlled plate presence … good overall athlete with nice actions. Good student.”
In that summer of 2004, Jaeger was a 5-foot-11, 170-pound second baseman getting ready to begin his senior year at Haughton (La.) High School. He eventually earned a scholarship at national junior college power LSU-Eunice.
Jaeger enjoyed an outstanding freshman season at Eunice, hitting .413 (74 for 179) with 10 doubles, seven triples, two home runs, 51 RBIs, 61 runs scored and 30 stolen bases in 36 attempts (56 games). The Bengals won the NJCAA Division II World Series that season.
He was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 43rd round of the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft, and signed as a “draft-and-follow” meaning he would play in college his sophomore year than negotiate with the Rockies in 2007.
He never got the opportunity.
Early registration for “2011 Compassion Dash: Jogging with the Jaegers” has begun and will continue through April 23. The cost is $15. Late registration is April 24-29 for $20 and Race Day registration is $25.
Corporate sponsorship information can be obtained by calling Chris Tingle at 318-617-4305.
Supporters can pledge to sponsor participants per-mile or can give a one-time donation. Teams are being organized with specific fund-raising goals.
Registration and pledge forms and relevant links can be found at compassiondash.com.