Only 12 years old, Josh McLaughlin was looking for a little bit of afternoon fun catching fly balls hit by former Major League Baseball players when his life changed.
McLaughlin went back to catch a ball during a home run derby that was part of Pepsi Max Field of Dreams festivities on May 11, 2012, at Columbus Commons. Instead of closing his glove around the ball, he was bumped and the ball struck his head, fracturing his skull.
Now a senior guard for the Central Crossing High School boys basketball team, McLaughlin can smile while reflecting on the injury. But it was no laughing matter at the time.
"It was sponsored by Pepsi, and it was a legit thing," he said. "I was one of the kids chasing the fly balls like they do (in the MLB Home Run Derby) on TV.
"There was a high line drive and I was in a circle of kids and I got pushed in the back. That made my glove go down and the ball hit me (between my left eyebrow and nose). Then they checked me out at the scene. I passed a concussion test and I knew where I was at, so they told my parents that they could take me home."
Soon after returning home that Friday evening, McLaughlin started vomiting so his mother, Tracy McLaughlin, took him to Doctors Hospital. From there he was transported by ambulance to Nationwide Children's Hospital, where he was evaluated and sent home early Saturday morning.
McLaughlin even returned to school Monday when his mother received a call about him needing to have surgery the next day.
"I know it made me sound bad sending him to school, but we were up all night at Children's and the doctor made it sound like surgery was an option but that he might not need surgery," she said. "But he had surgery and was in the hospital three days. He hasn't had a problem since."
McLaughlin has no remnants of the surgery except for a scar on the crown of his head. While he describes the scar as a bolt of lightning, his mother said it "looked like the pattern on Charlie Brown's shirt."
"They put a dissolvable plastic plate in (my skull) and they screwed it in," McLaughlin said. "They asked me if they could use pictures of me in a textbook, so I'm in a textbook somewhere.
"(The sponsors) gave me a baseball signed by (Cincinnati Reds hall of famer) Johnny Bench and he even called me. I liked that a lot."
McLaughlin stopped playing baseball after his sophomore year. In basketball, he's a starter for the first time after coming off the bench the past two seasons.
"Josh is a hustle guy and will do anything you ask him to do," said coach Neil Hohman, whose team was 3-7 overall before playing Licking Heights on Jan. 15 and 2-3 in the OCC-Central Division after defeating Westland 59-39 on Jan. 11. "He'll take charges and play great defense. He's a guy that has to come out every couple minutes because he wears himself out hustling.
"One example is when he was a freshman. He took four charges in the freshman game and three more in the j.v. game. He was literally bleeding through the back of his jersey from skinning himself up from those charges."
McLaughlin said he brings "energy and hustle" to the court "because I'm definitely not a scorer." He had only 12 points through nine games but had taken four charges.
"I'm a loud talker on defense, which is my strong suit. You can put me out there and I'll play my butt off and do what I can to help the team," he said.
McLaughlin has a 3.5 GPA and is taking classes at Columbus State.
"I guess our season could be better, but we have had a couple tough losses that would have been wins if we would have done a couple of small things better," he said.
Girls basketball team sweeps Westland
The girls basketball team picked up its second victory in the OCC-Central, defeating host Westland 60-32 on Jan. 11.
Kennedy Edwards scored 22 points with four 3-pointers to lead the Comets, who improved to 3-10 overall and 2-4 in the league. Haley Cox had 16 points with four 3s, and Abriana Mann added nine points.
Cox scored a program-best 33 points in a 66-22 victory over Westland on Dec. 4.
The Comets' other victory came Dec. 19, 62-19 at Mifflin.
Leapley, Green lead wrestlers in home meet
Omari Green and Hudson Leapley led the wrestling team in the Comet Classic on Jan. 12.
Green was third at heavyweight and Leapley was third at 132 pounds as the Comets finished 13th (65 points) of 19 teams behind champion Mount Orab Western Brown (257).
Derek Layne placed seventh at 145.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington. The Comets lost to the Golden Bears 60-34 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Grove City
*Jan. 18 -- At UA. The Comets lost to the Golden Bears 54-24 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 22 -- At Grove City
Jan. 21 -- At *Dublin Coffman with Franklin Heights, Grove City and *Westland
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 19 -- Groveport, Hamilton Township and Westland at Urbancrest YMCA
*Jan. 17 -- At UA
Jan. 18-19 -- Mike Casey-Maumee Bay Classic at Oregon Clay