A paralyzed prep hockey player was given a thunderous ovation Monday night as he threw out the first pitch ahead of the Minnesota Twins' game against the visiting New York Yankees.
Flanked by his brother, Sam, and parents Mike and Leslie, Jack Jablonski made a 20-foot toss to Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who went out to greet the former prep star and his family. A group of players' wives from the team were also on hand, and made a $10,000 donation to the Jack Jablonski Fund - an organization that raises money for spinal cord research.
Like any excited teenager, Jablonski couldn't resist taking to Twitter to share in his excitement before the big moment:
Throwing out the first (pitch) on Monday at ... the Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees. #nervousbutexcited #shouldbefun
- Jack Jablonski (@Jabs_13)
Jablonski was left paralyzed following a vicious collision in a hockey game nearly nine months ago. Doctors told the 16-year-old Minneapolis native he would never walk or skate again - devastating news to a young man who showed plenty of promise in the sport he loved, scoring his team's only goal in the first half of that fateful game.
Well wishes poured in for Jablonski, who received hundreds of visitors at Hennepin County Medical Center. Actor Steve Carell, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and Twins pitcher Carl Pavano were among those to pass along their well wishes.
Jablonski has made tremendous strides in his recovery considering the uphill battle doctors said he would face as a quadriplegic. Over the summer, after months of intense rehabilitation with a team of doctors, Jablonski crawled on his hands and knees - a moment caught on tape, much to Jablonski's delight.
Jablonski was scheduled to throw out the first pitch for a Twins game against the Boston Red Sox in late April - roughly a week after he was discharged from a rehabilitation institute - but fell ill and wasn't able to attend.
Despite having to deal with the reality that he will likely never again play the sport he adores, Jablonski remains as die-hard a hockey fan as ever. He even weighed in on the current labor dispute between the NHL and the Players' Association:
Dear @NHL, Besides the whole walking thing, there's nothing I want more than an NHL season. Sincerely Jabs
The brief message has been retweeted nearly 5,000 times.