Faith helps high school pitcher overcome adversity

by Bill Sorrell/Baptist and Reflector, posted Friday, May 25, 2018 (27 days ago)

BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- A senior at Haywood High School, Landon Wilson wrote as his farewell quote in the yearbook, "Like I have always said, four years at Haywood High School will cost me an arm and a leg."

Landon Wilson on the mound for Haywood High School.
Submitted photo
Classmates told Wilson that it was the funniest senior quote in the yearbook.

Humor, faith, family, friends and baseball have helped Wilson not only cope with the loss of his left arm but remain positive.

While running 200 yards from his home in Brownsville, Tenn., last Oct. 26, a pickup truck pulling a lawn mower trailer hit him from behind. His left arm was barely hanging, and his broken right leg was in danger of being lost, too.

Wilson also had a broken ankle, broken feet, broken knee and broken toes. He would spend the next 45 days at Regional One Medical Center in Memphis.

Eight surgeries included amputation of his left arm. Two titanium rods were inserted into his right leg, a plate and three screws in his left ankle, two screws in his right knee, three screws in his right foot. Four of the surgeries were to clean out grass, glass and gravel.

"If you go through one of these accidents, you have to have a sense of humor or else you probably wouldn't be able to get through it," he said.

A right-handed pitcher on the Tomcats' baseball team, Wilson's faith has grown.

"I never thought my life would be that drastically changed in one day but obviously it was and I feel like it has made me a better person," said Wilson, a member of Brownsville Baptist Church and the son of Taylor and Beth Wilson. "The accident brought me closer to God and it opened my eyes in so many ways and brought a perspective of life."

"God is always there for me," he noted. "He is my shepherd. He guides me through life. I want to follow His plan."

Amazingly, Wilson has returned to action, and made his senior-year debut on the mound against Lake County on March 15. He called it a "dream come true."

"I spent all that time in the hospital working to get back on the mound," Wilson said. "It was amazing."

This season, he has a 2-0 record with a 3.93 ERA, and has recorded 14 strikeouts in 10 2-3 innings. His fastball is 75 mph.

"He has exceeded all my expectations," said Haywood head coach Tyler Newman. "Landon has a very strong faith. This is pretty much [what] they have based his whole recovery on. Things could have been a lot worse but they put their faith in God and He has helped him heal to the point that he has. It has been pretty miraculous to see him pitching already."

Wilson, 18, wants to be vocal with his story and use it as an inspiration for others.

"With my story, I feel like this is the way He has shown me this is a good thing and positive can come out of it. There are many opportunities that can come from this," he said. "I feel like I have affected more people by this happening than I ever would have. I want to touch as many people as I can with my story and get as many people to follow Christ as I can."

Wilson, who made a commitment while attending VBS as a young boy, realized in the hospital that there would be adjustments and he would have to do things differently. Playing baseball again was among his goals.

While there are baseball players with one arm, most were born that way. Landon had to adapt in weeks to throw again this season.

"It has been pretty miraculous to see him pitching already," Newman said.

Teammate Tillman McRae, a right-handed pitcher and shortstop, said Wilson's encouragement gives the team hope.

"He boosts everybody up," said McRae, who attends Holly Grove Baptist Church and has been friends with Wilson since preschool. "Seeing him on the mound again makes everybody want to play hard."

Haywood senior first baseman Brandon Evans, a member of Brownsville Baptist Church, added, "I put forth my best effort for him. He brings a lot of motivation."

McRae said Wilson told him that baseball used to essentially be his whole world. Now, though, he can see past baseball.

On March 24, Landon -- who also plays golf and starred in the 2016 school play "The Sound of Music" -- got a prosthetic arm. He plans to get a myoelectric prosthesis that will allow hand movement.

Union University and other colleges have spoken with him about playing baseball, but with no scholarship offers he would have to walk on.

"I think he could still pitch in college," said Newman about Wilson, who went 4-3 with a 2.68 ERA last season and showcased a fastball that reached 84 mph. "He is still not 100 percent. His velocity is not where it was before, but I think he could still go back there with throwing more."

Wilson, who has aggressive physical therapy three times weekly, plans to attend Mississippi State and major in journalism and communications before law school.

"When I wake up every morning, God's grace is real," Wilson said. "I'm telling you it opened my eyes big time that life is a gift and make the best of our life no matter what happens," he said. "I will keep my faith and continue on this journey and see where it takes me."

Bill Sorrell is a freelance writer and pastor of First Baptist Church in Whiteville, Tenn. This story was first published by the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
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