TRACY - When the Tracy Express played at Marshall Wednesday, many were thinking of Taylor Hagberg.
Hagberg plays third base for Tracy, and is recovering from injuries suffered in the amateur baseball game against Adrian (June 8).
Hagberg suffered injuries to his ribs and spleen after trying to make a catch in foul territory behind third base.
"He dived, and somehow, the ball got lodged and curled back under him," Express manager Aaron Ziemer said.
Initially, it was thought Hagberg had the wind knocked out of him.
"I asked him if he was good to go, or he wanted to come out (of the game)," Ziemer said.
Hagberg finished out the inning, but Ziemer noticed that he was rubbing his chest area in the dugout.
That's when Ziemer thought Hagberg may be more seriously injured than everybody thought.
Later, after having been given an ice and cold pack to put on his chest area, Hagberg encountered breathing problems.
"That's when we got concerned," Ziemer said.
Hagberg was checked out at Sanford Tracy Hospital and airlifted to Sioux Falls later that same evening.
It was just his third amateur baseball game, as he came off the bench against Jackson (June 4) and started against Madison (June 7).
A Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior, Hagberg wanted to give amateur baseball a try with the Express, a first-year team.
"We thought he was the long-term answer at third base," Ziemer said. "It was the way he handled the position and his at-bats. We thought he'd be the guy."
Hagberg drove in the only run in a 12-1 loss to Jackson and he hit the ball hard twice while going 0-for-4 against Madison (a 7-6 loss).
It was a few days after TMB's season ended in the section tournament.
"We weren't going to play any of those guys until their season was done," Ziemer said. "We talked to Taylor on Monday and he was in uniform (Wednesday) playing against Jackson. He got in the fourth or fifth inning, and got one at-bat.
"He played in the field, and everybody on our team agreed that he was our third baseman. There was no debate."
Against Adrian, the promising third baseman was victimized by a freak accident while playing defense.
"Obviously, it was very tragic and bizarre that it happened on the field," said Zeimer. "It's the most bizarre baseball injury I've witnessed."
It was May 24 when Hagberg was given a heroes' welcome by his TMB teammates after slamming a game-tying home run.
It was a two-run shot, and it came in the seventh inning against Wabasso in the winners bracket game in Milroy.
Trailing 4-0, the Panthers scored four runs off Rabbits' ace pitcher, Johnny Pistulka.
First, it was Aaron Frisvold who swatted a two-run, two-out homer.
Then with TMB's No. 9 hitter on base, Hagberg - who was the area leader in home runs (4) - took to the plate.
"It was a big-time situation," said Ziemer, who called the home run on a Marshall radio station. "It was against their ace who had shut (TMB) down until the last inning.
"The wind was blowing out to right field, but I think Taylor's (home run) would have gone (out) either way. By far, it's the most dramatic home run I've ever called."
Despite the late comeback, TMB eventually lost, 5-4, in 10 innings to Wabasso, which went on to capture the Class A state championship.
After seeing Hagberg's performance - in the batters' box and at third base - the Tracy Express manager realized after that game that Taylor was a player he wanted on the amateur roster.
"He really swings the bat quite well, and he sees a lot of pitches in his at-bats," Ziemer said. "You can just tell somebody is a hitter by the way he handles himself."
"We were excited that he was going to sign (with the Express). And play with us. He was the type of player we needed on the team because of the ability he possessed to hit the ball. He gave us a lot of (things) which we were missing. Plus, he gave us a lot of speed."
While TMB had defensive lapses this past season, they weren't at third base.
He was named to the All-Area first team after hitting .427 with six doubles and five home runs while also driving in 22 runs and stealing 11 bases.
"He was an outstanding player," Ziemer said. "He has a big upside in baseball.
"We'll do whatever we can to make him feel part of this (Express) team. He only played three games, but he got along with everybody. He brought a bright spot to the team. He was a great kid, somebody you wanted to have around. He had a great attitude. It seems like things like this always happen to good kids that work hard."
According to the Tracy Headlight-Herald, he had surgery to remove the damaged spleen and a blood clot June 13.
There's a CaringBridge journal entry for those who want updates on Hagberg's on-going recovery.
His mother, Cathy, said Taylor was "starting to feel better."
Ziemer has talked to Hagberg's mom several times and has visited the CaringBridge site daily.
Ziemer was disheartened when hearing news Tuesday that Hagberg had to return to the hospital for another surgery.
"The first thing we are pulling for is his health," Ziemer said. "The second thing we're pulling for is he's able to do things he wants to do in life."
Hagberg has thought about joining the National Guard.
"He wanted to serve his country," Ziemer said. "That's a testament to what kind of kid he is."
Once Hagberg is fully recovered, hopefully, Hagberg can resume his baseball career.
"I still believe he has all the potential to be a great baseball player," Ziemer said. "Hopefully, he has that drive and desire when this is over."
A fund-raiser is planned by the Express for the July 12-13 weekend.
Things are still in the planning stages, but, hopefully, Milroy can be fitted in as Tracy's opponent for one of the games that weekend.
"We are checking on (Taylor's) recovery process," Ziemer said. "We want to zero in on those dates. They are the last ones in the regular season."
Hopefully, Hagberg can come out to the Tracy high school baseball field the weekend of July 12-13. His presence would be uplifting to everybody.