Paralyzed ballplayer back to school, back to himself Prince Frederick plans fund-raiser

February 05, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Jermaine Jones' friends and teachers at Calvert High in Prince Frederick say that he is quite himself, full of laughter and fun.

But the sophomore will miss this baseball season and likely all baseball seasons. He uses a wheelchair, and possibly will be in one for the rest of his life.

"It [adjusting to the wheelchair] is real tough, but it doesn't really bother me that much, and I won't let it," Jones said.

Jones was paralyzed from the chest down after sliding home during a baseball tournament in North Carolina last summer. The perseverance of Jones, a three-sport star at the Southern Maryland school, has earned him the respect of his classmates and the community.

"His spirits are up and he has shown so much determination to come back. I don't think I'd be able to do what he's done," said John Iaquinta, a math teacher at Calvert.

Iaquinta has organized a benefit memorabilia/autograph show on Jones' behalf at the school tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and has enlisted the help of such sports figures as Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, Maryland football players John Kaleo and Marcus Badgett, Washington Redskins receiver Stephen Hobbs and former Redskins kicker Jess Atkinson.

Jones, 15, lost the use of his legs playing the sport he loved best during the Junior Olympic baseball tournament in Concord, N.C., on Aug. 6.

Gary Richardson, Jones' baseball coach at Calvert, was working with a team of Maryland All-Stars in the tournament. Coaching at third base, he called for Jones to pinch run late in the game against a team from Alabama.

In his mind, Richardson still can see Jones round third on a single and head for home. At the end of the replay, he can see Jones dive for the plate, headfirst.

Jones says he can't remember what happened at the end of the play, but Richardson never will forget.

"It was just a clean play," Richardson said. "There was no aggressiveness on the part of the catcher. It's probably on some film, but I wouldn't care to look at it."

Jones' head collided with the catcher's shin guards. He suffered two twisted vertebrae, which lodged in his spinal cord. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, then transported later that day to the Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte.

Doctors performed emergency surgery three days after the accident to fuse the two vertebrae off his spinal cord, and he regained slight movement in his arms and hands.

Three weeks after the accident, Jones was flown to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, where he remained until he was allowed to go home Dec. 10. He returned to school last month.

Dr. John E. Toerge is medical director of the spinal cord injury program at the rehabilitation center and Jones' attending physician. He said Jones has minimal hand function and can bend his elbows and bring his hands to his face, though he cannot control his fingers.

But Toerge said it is "unlikely" that Jones will ever walk again.

The county has rallied behind Jones, with impromptu fund-raisers in local general and department stores, as well as a charity golf tournament to defray some of the costs for his parents, Francis and Kathleen Jones, who also have a 5-year-old daughter.

"It lets us know that we have friends out there," said Francis Jones. "If this hadn't happened, we wouldn't know about all the good people who are out there."

Information about tomorrow's fund-raiser can be obtained by calling Calvert High at (410) 535-7330. Contributions can be made by mail to the Jermaine Corey Jones Fund, Calvert High School, 600 Dares Beach Road, Prince Frederick, Md. 20678.

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