Baseball: Io takes a hit, but comes back strong

Ryan Io was selected to the Hollister American 11-12 All-Star team.

As he lay on the ground, with blood pouring out of his nose and his right eye swollen shut, Ryan Io had one thought on his mind.
“Could I play baseball again?” said Io, who was struck by a line drive on March 13 after throwing a pitch in a Hollister Little League Majors game at Veterans Park. “I like the sport so much, and I just wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible.”
Defying the odds, the 12-year-old Io made a triumphant return on May 6. It was a milestone moment considering Io had suffered a broken orbital bone and broken cheekbone after taking a line drive to the head while pitching for the A’s in the second game of the season.
Once paramedics arrived on the scene to assess the situation, Io was taken to Hollister Airport before being airlifted to Valley Medical Center in San Jose. The swelling on Io’s face was so severe that he couldn’t have surgery until March 31.
Amazingly, Io returned to action at the earliest time of his doctor’s recommendation, a testament to his unwavering determination to play the game he loves.
“Luckily, I was able to get back and play in four weeks (after the surgery),” Io said. “I was pretty happy about that.”
For someone who had suffered a traumatic experience a couple of months ago, Io talked with remarkable calm and poise regarding his situation. That’s hardly a surprise, according to Io’s mom, Rhonda, who was in attendance that night when her son got hit by the line drive.
“He’s definitely a trooper,” Rhonda said. “When he was at Valley Medical and Stanford, he kept on saying that he just wanted regular Tylenol for the pain (as opposed to stronger medication). I was in shock and couldn’t believe it.”
Rhonda and her husband, Steve, endured every parents’ worst nightmare: Tending to a child after a freak, violent accident. However, Rhonda said the entire family was grateful for receiving such love and support from the Hollister community. Just as important, Ryan displayed a resiliency belying his age.
“He didn’t lose any will to play baseball, that’s for sure,” Rhonda said. “Even on that night at Valley, he asked, ‘Who won the game?’ I didn’t have the heart to say they cancelled the game. Needless to say, the whole ballpark was in shock.”
The outpouring of support from the community didn’t go unnoticed. When Io was in the hospital, one of his coaches, Craig Yamaoka, had the idea to make wrist bands with Io’s No. 10 on them.
“All the support was like Christmas everyday for a 5 year old,” Io said.
Io was recently selected to play for the Hollister American 11-12 All-Star team for the second straight year. Io, who recently completed the sixth grade at Hollister Dual Language Academy, can and often does play every position on the field.
“I don’t really have a favorite position,” he said. “I like playing them all.”
Io wears a protective cage on his batting helmet, a mask under his hat when he plays the infield or outfield and a special protective mask when he pitches. Io has to play with protective gear until March 2016, and at that point it’s his decision on whether he’ll stick with the protective gear or not.
“It took a day or two to get used to wearing the protective gear,” Io said. “I’m used to playing with it now.”
The All-Star tournament season begins on Saturday, and Io can’t wait to suit up for Hollister American. He doesn’t take anything for granted, knowing his career could’ve come to a premature end months ago.
Io has overcome adversity at a young age, discovering something about himself in the process.
“I don’t really think about what happened before because it doesn’t happen a lot,” Io said. “I just focus on playing the game. I’m tougher than I thought.”
Tough indeed.

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