The odds were against 13-year-old David Hogue playing baseball at all this summer.
It has taken the Columbia boy three years just to begin to recover from a series of surgeries to correct a bone disorderand to remove multiple tumors in his arms and legs.
The operations left him weak and facing months of physical therapy.
But this season David returned and produced some surprises.
He stole two bases last Saturday, made a game-saving catch on a line drive June 1 and hit a solid line-drive single to left field May 4 for the Padres baseball team.
"He has been the rallying point for the entire team," Padres coach Chuck Regan said. "Its a great support mechanism for both (the team and David.)"
In May, David also playedin the Junior Future Circuit Tennis Tournament at Howard High SchoolAnd this month he started playing on the county's USTA Junior Tennisteam.
The summer of 1988 marked the start of a new series of operations for David.
That year, David managed to play baseball for only a month when he was forced into the hospital for surgery to removetumorscaused by multiple osteochondroma. David had suffered for years from the disorder, in which growth cells form tumors, and had facedthe same procedure seven times before. The 1988 surgery sidelined him for the season.
The next summer was no easier. David played fourweeks, then faced surgery again, this time to lengthen a bone in hisleft arm, which was slightly shorter than his right arm. The procedure required him to wear a 10-pound apparatus on his arm for a month.
After these problems, most 13-year-olds would have quit sports.
But David did not.
Last year, he signed up for a tennis tournament, reaching the finals in double competition. And this summer, he decided to give baseball another try, playing right field for the Padres.
"Any other kid might be looking to pack it in or be looking for sympathy," said Regan, his coach. "He just goes out and tries his best all the time."
Evelyn Hogue, David's mother, agrees. "Someone else would havesaid 'This is it,' " she said. "He keeps trying and trying."
This season the Oakland Mills Middle School seventh-grader, who is in the school's gifted and talented program, has been an inspiration to his teammates on the Padres, part of the Howard County YouthProgram.
David remains optimistic that he will complete a full baseball season this year, despite limited use of his left arm.
"I thought if my left arm would heal, then I would play a full season," David said. "I have always been optimistic, and I have that attitude toward sports."
He faces more surgery in July to remove tumors froma hip, but by then the baseball season will be finished.
Regan said David is "always hustling. David feels every time he goes into thegame, he's going to contribute."
In addition, David has been horseback riding and skiing for the past four years, swimming for the Thunderhill Neighborhood Swim Team (1986-1988) and the YMCA (1990). He also started piano lessons last month.
"He takes on a lot of thingsand takes them to the end," said his mother. "He is not easily discouraged. David is able to rise above his physical problems and not letit be a deterrent in the way he views life."