For Patterson catcher Buddy Edmond, the piercing crack of a .44 Magnum pistol changed his life forever.
The final episode of this bizarre tale will play May 1 in a city courtroom when sentence is passed on William Albert Hedge, a stranger to Edmond. Hedge has been convicted of firing a bullet that almost killed Edmond 13 months ago.
Hedge could receive a maximum 10-year sentence for his crime.
He is lucky Edmond lived to tell about it.
Edmond and a Patterson teammate were riding home from the East Baltimore school with assistant football coach John Runk on March 10, 1990. When the car stopped to discharge the teammate, a stranger stepped from behind a nearby van.
Says Edmond: "I heard this voice behind me say, 'You think I'm joking? You think I'm joking?' I saw he had a gun aimed at me."
The first shot went into the air. The second slug struck Edmond in the abdomen.
"I didn't know I had been shot at first. Then I looked down and saw blood, not in front, but on the car behind me. The blood was coming out my back from the hole where the bullet exited."
Edmond collapsed, but managed to crawl back into the car as Runk sped off toward Francis Scott Key Medical Center.
Edmond's teammate rushed into his house and called for help. City police responded and arrested Hedge soon thereafter.
His coach's quick thinking probably saved Edmond's life.
"I remember entering the emergency room," said Edmond. "I was hanging on to Coach Runk's neck with one arm and holding my stomach with the other. Everyone came running at me and I think they had my clothes off before I even got into a room."
Nearly 10 hours of surgery were required to repair the internal damage. Edmond spent 40 days in the hospital, during which he underwent a second operation to correct a blocked bowel. For 33 consecutive days, he could have neither food nor drink.
During the summer, he needed emergency surgery to unblock his bowel again.
"That is something that can happen at any time," he said. "Adhesions from the scar tissue can block the bowel again, and I will need surgery to correct it."
Edmond bears a horrific scar on his abdomen that measures 1 1/2 inches wide and 12 inches long.
Through it all, Edmond struggled with the nagging question, "Why?"
Not once did the police question him. "I have never even spoken to him [Hedge]," said Edmond. "All I know is that he was the boyfriend of the sister of Coach Runk's girlfriend [who is now Runk's wife, Dawn]. Her sister and I were friends, but we were not dating. We never have. I guess he [Hedge] thought I liked her, or something. There was no warning. He just shot me."
Edmond, who had been out for only three baseball practices before the incident, missed the entire season last spring. He was forced to repeat 10th grade this year because he missed so much school, but he was healthy when he returned to Patterson in the fall.
"They [doctors] told me at first that I would not be able to play football again, but I was very happy to prove them wrong," said Edmond, who quarterbacked the Clippers to the MSA B Conference championship contest in November. They lost, 28-25, to Lake Clifton, but on the season, Edmond passed for more than 1,800 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Beyond the physical problems, Edmond's life has changed.
"From it all, I've learned that baseball and life goes on, with or without you," he said. "It really is scary how fast it all can be over, how close you can come to death in such a short time.
"I used to take things for granted, but not anymore. I never used to tell my parents how much I loved them, but that's what I was thinking about in that emergency room. I thought I was going to die."
Edmond dropped from 205 pounds to 135 during his hospital stay, but is a solid 195 again. He is fearless behind the plate, but is quick to admit he is very gun-shy.
"I don't like guns," he said. "I never did. People just don't realize the damage they can do."