White Sox ace Sale helps high school pitcher nearly killed by line drive

Tyler Coleman, 16, of Tinley Park, Ill., shares a few traits with Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. They're both tall, skinny and pitch left-handed.

Both were enjoying undefeated records this season back on May 16. That's the day Tyler took the mound for Victor J. Andrew High School's sophomore baseball team.

In the fourth inning of that Monday afternoon game, a batter lined one of Tyler's pitches right back at him. The ball struck him on the top of his head, and the injury nearly killed him.

Tyler's dad, Ken Coleman, was at the game. A school athletics schedule shows Andrew's freshman, sophomore and varsity baseball teams were playing away games at Lockport, Ill., that day.

"I didn't think it was that bad at first," he said. "The kids at the baseball game had no idea how bad it was."

Tyler remained conscious and showed no immediate signs of serious injury. Still, an ambulance was called to take him to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox to be checked out. During the trip he started bleeding from his nose and vomiting blood.

At Silver Cross, doctors and Tyler's parents agreed a specialist needed to see him immediately, so arrangements were made to transport him to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago.

"We were nervous wrecks, pacing back and forth," said Tyler's mother, Keri.

She said Tyler had previously visited a neurologist because he suffered from migraines since a young age. Lurie wrote in a blog post that by the time Tyler arrived at the Chicago hospital, the pressure in his brain was rapidly escalating and he was immediately brought into surgery.

"The ball hit him right on his frontal lobe," the Lurie post quoted Dr. Tadanori Tomita as saying. He's head of Lurie's Division of Neurosurgery and one of the country's top neurosurgeons. "He sustained a large epidural hematoma, severe bruising of the brain, frontal sinus and facial fractures."

Keri Coleman said Tomita told her a CT scan showed a blood vessel in Tyler's brain was swollen to three times its normal size.

"Dr. Tomita said if it ruptures you've got five minutes" until certain death, she said.

Tomita and the staff at Lurie saved Tyler's life with a minimally invasive procedure, Lurie wrote on its blog. An incision was cut along Tyler's eyebrow, avoiding a full craniotomy of the skull.

Once the immediate threat was averted, Tyler recovered quickly, his parents and Lurie said. A couple days after the near-death experience, he received a phone call at the hospital from Sale, his favorite baseball player.

"When people told me I was too tall to be a pitcher, I'd say, 'Yeah, well look at Chris Sale. He's tall and left-handed like me.' So when he called me at the hospital, I couldn't believe it. He told me to stay strong, sent me a White Sox bag filled with autographed souvenirs and invited me to a game," the Lurie blog quoted Tyler as saying.

When Tyler left Lurie less than a week after the accident, neighbors in the Coleman's Fairmont Village subdivision welcomed him home with a big sign. Friends and neighbors provided the family with home-cooked meals for nearly a month.

When I met the Coleman family at their Tinley Park home the other day, Tyler was friendly and gracious, but after meeting Sale in person he'd rather move on instead of talking more about his traumatic brain injury.

Tyler, his parents and sister Ella, 12, spent about 25 minutes with Sale in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field before the White Sox played the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 5.

"He asked about the accident and talked about different balls that had been hit hard right back at him," Keri Coleman said of Sale, a five-time MLB All-Star who started this year's Midsummer Classic for the victorious American League.

"He's a total dad. He has a little boy, too, so he knows," Keri said.

Tyler's dad said he was thrilled his family received VIP treatment from the White Sox organization.

"I've been a South Sider all my life," Ken said. "I thought it was cool."

At the Aug. 5 game, the ace presented the high schooler with one of his game jerseys.

Tyler was invited onto the field to meet the umpires before the game began. Initially the family was seated right behind the White Sox home dugout along the third-base line. While the family was grateful for the great seats, they were a little nervous about the possibility of a screeching foul ball being lined their way, Keri said. They moved to safer seats behind netting, she said.

In a video posted to Facebook by the White Sox, Tyler spoke about meeting his hero and his prospects for playing baseball again.

"He gives me the encouragement to go back out there and pursue what I love," Tyler says in the video. "I still don't know yet. I hope I can get out there and pitch again, but we'll have to wait and see."

The May 16 injury occurred a week before finals. Tyler was unable to return to school, but was awarded grades for his sophomore year, Keri said. His recovery is progressing, and in June he received his driver's license, his mother said.

While Tyler talks and acts like a typical high school junior, he's still taking medication to reduce the risk of seizures, Keri said. He's set to rejoin classmates when Andrew's school year begins Aug. 18. The family will monitor his progress closely but has every reason to hope for the best.

"He hasn't fully healed," Keri said. "He hasn't had to really concentrate yet, and being around fluorescent lights will be the hardest part."