SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — A Little League World Series player who seriously injured his head when he fell out of his top bunk in dorms at the world series complex has FaceTimed with his coach and continues to improve, the coach said Friday.
Mark Ence, the manager for Snow Canyon, Utah, said he told his 12-year-old player, Easton Oliverson, that he loved him and Easton said he loved the coach back.
“It was great to hear his voice,” Ence said.
Easton has been recovering in the hospital since the accident Monday. His MRI on Wednesday night came back normal, he has begun walking and walked to the bathroom on his own Friday morning, Ence said.
“I’m not familiar with the recovery process of that sort of injury,” Ence said. “But he definitely is improving and the family wanted to let everyone know that they are grateful for the thoughts and prayers and they feel like the prayers are working.”
Ence spoke with reporters hours before Utah, representing the Mountain Region, played its first game of the tournament against Tennessee from the Southeast Region.
With Easton’s condition improving so quickly, his father, Jace was back in the dugout to resume his role as an assistant coach. In addition, Easton’s younger brother Brogan was added to the team’s roster.
“You’re allowed to have 14 on a roster,” Ence said. “We had 13 and we were able to get Easton’s little brother Brogan to come and be with our team, so he arrived yesterday. The family is extremely excited. I think it’s going to be huge for the family in terms of the healing process to have Brogan be there."
Easton was remembered during warmups. Utah did not send a player out to left field, Easton’s position, and Tennessee took the field in Utah ballcaps.
During pregame introductions, Brogan received rousing applause from a big crowd at Lamade Stadium. When Utah received commemorative medals for participating, Jace received Easton’s medal on his behalf to a standing ovation.
In the bottom of the fifth, Brogan pinch hit to a rousing cheer from the entire stadium that lasted about 30 seconds. Following the 10-year-old’s at bat, he once again received applause from fans as he made his way back to the dugout.
“It gives you a good feeling that people can cheer for an opponent like little Brogan,” Ence said. “Even though you’re playing against them, there’s things bigger than baseball."
Utah lost 11-2, but even in defeat the coaching staff and parents have worked to keep their players’ attention on upcoming games and enjoying the Little League World Series experience.
“Being kids they bounce back pretty quick. They’ve enjoyed it here and stayed busy,” Ence said. “It’s definitely been more stressful for the parents, but the kids are doing great.”
Jake Starr is a journalism student at Penn State.