By: Kayla Mortellaro
PHOENIX— Arizona Diamondbacks right-handed pitcher Evan Marshall, with his wife Allie by his side, was all smiles as he returned to Chase Field Tuesday evening.
Marshall realizes just how lucky he is to be able to stand, walk, talk, and have the ability to remember; let alone to entertain the thought of playing baseball again.
Marshall’s life changed in an instant August 4, in El Paso, Texas. Marshall was on the mound for the Aces, the Dbacks Triple-A team. He was struck in the right temple by a line-drive causing him to instantly fall to the ground. He was able to walk-off the field, and that is where his remarkable story begins.
“I can remember all of it,” Marshall said. “I got hit, I never saw the ball but I knew it was coming and I just kind of flinched a little bit. It hit me pretty firm on the right side of my head. And it ricocheted all the way to first base. They picked up the ball and stepped on the bag for the third out of the inning. So, it was a one-three put out, so poetic justice for what happened.”
Marshall’s calm demeanor and ability to find the slightest humor in his situation is a testament to his strength and will-power. But on a serious note for Marshall, the events that happened next on that fateful Tuesday are what he firmly believes saved his life.
“My ears are ringing and I knew it wasn’t the best of circumstances,” Marshall said. “But they came out to me, I got to my feet. I wasn’t feeling so good by the time I got to the dugout, I started to get sick. The speed in which everyone operated is what saved my life.”
“I was taken to the first hospital in an ambulance and they did a scan and saw that things were going pretty quick down hill and they got me transferred to UTEP University Hospital, and my neurosurgeon was fantastic. They got me opened up and honestly at that point every minute was really important with how I would be able to come back because damage was being done with the pressure that was building in my skull. They got me opened up and they relieved the pressure really fast and stopped the damage from being done.”
Marshall was diagnosed with a fractured skull and needed emergency surgery to relieve the pressure, stop the bleeding, and reduce the swelling in his brain. As Marshall’s Barrow Neurological Institute doctor, Dr. Christina Kwasnica said, “it was a hit right in the wrong part of the skull where the skull is thin, and right below there is an artery and so he had immediate bleeding. And even with the fastest medical care you could get, he was very close to having a very bad outcome.”
But remarkably just three weeks to the day that Marshall was struck, he is sitting at the interview podium at Chase Field fully capable of talking, forming thoughts, remembering intricate details, cracking jokes, and reflective of his situation.
“The left side of my body was a little slow because I got hit on the right, and I was slurring my words. It was scary. I didn’t like it,” Marshall said. But now, everything is back to normal as far as my speech, and my thoughts, and especially physically, I really feel like myself.”
But above all else, Marshall is an athlete- itching and striving to get back on the diamond. As he joked in the press conference, he wants to be back on the mound in two weeks.
“If the worse thing that happens from all this is that I got to wear a funny little hat to continue my career, I will gladly take that,” Marshall said. “Because the alternative wouldn’t be very fun.”
Dr. Kwasnica is more realistic as to what Marshall can do with his baseball career. She believes he can make a full-comeback to the diamond, but returning this season is probably too soon- as he has not yet been cleared to drive a car.
“My personal opinion is that the things that they are working on now in therapy are the things that make you a good pitcher, a good athlete,” Dr. Kwasnica said. “So, I think you can do it earlier but to compete at a professional level you need to have attention and concentration that is far beyond what us normal people have. You have to have directed attention that is absolutely phenomenal, reaction time that is far above anybody else that is walking around. So, that’s the things that I think might mean we aren’t back this season.”
There is no easy way to express the severity of Marshall’s situation and that his life was in jeopardy. For someone else, it might be worse to feel like you were pitching some of the best baseball of your career, but Marshall presented himself as a man with perspective and determination. Instead of letting the circumstance crumble him, it has fueled him to work as hard as he can for the chance to get back to playing baseball – the game he loves. It never crossed his mind to hang up his glove and find something else to do. Baseball drives him. He clearly has support from his wife, who broke down into tears talking about her husband Tuesday night.
But for Marshall, it is all about his will to compete, his will to play Major League Baseball.
For now, Marshall will have to enjoy being around his teammates in the clubhouse, and as he calls it, being at Chase Field is “therapeutic.”
“Being here and being around the game, I’ve missed it so much,” Marshall said getting choked up. “Today was just really special to get to see everybody and get hugs. And get to tell them how much them reaching out to me throughout the whole process has really helped me to keep going. Obviously, it was really hard on my family, but it was really hard on everybody and I keep telling them we will make it through this.”
Marshall and his wife both glowingly talked about the support and genuine concern displayed from everyone in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Marshall said he woke up in El Paso to see Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall at his bedside.
“Getting to play major league baseball is one of the greatest things you can do,” Marshall said. “The relationships that you build with your teammates is spectacular. I can’t tell you someone who didn’t text me from the team, the coaching staff, and the front office being there. It’s just been great to get here and show them all that I’m working hard, and that I’m rehabbing and everything is going really well. And let them know that I miss them.”