BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Spencer Shea throws out the first pitch for the Flanders Little League opening day ceremony Saturday morning. Spencer’s parents, Mike and Kathleen, stood by his side and watched while the Flanders Burner Service and Suffolk County Title Insurance Company teams stood and applauded. See slide show.
Spencer Shea looked like a rock star Saturday, with his dark sunglasses and baseball cap, acknowledging the applause of his fans and preparing to throw out the honorary first pitch of the season for the Flanders Little League.
He even took a bow, and pointed at the catcher with both hands before going into a windup and pitching.
But just under three months ago, Spencer, a Riverhead Middle School student who turned 15 this week, was fighting for his life after a serious Jan. 30 car accident in Riverhead, and his prognosis didn’t appear good, according to his parents, Michael and Kathleen Shea of Riverhead.
“He’s made a remarkable recovery,” his mother said Saturday.
“It’s a miracle,” his father said.
Aside from doctor’s appointments, throwing out Saturday’s first pitch marked Spencer’s first foray outside the hospital since the accident, Kathleen Shea said.
“It’s nice to be able to take him out and give him fresh air,” she said.
After the accident, Spencer was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, but later he was moved to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he remains. He had to undergo another procedure at Stony Brook on Monday, but his mother said she’s hopeful he’ll be able to come home soon.
“This could happen to any one of these kids,” said Chuck Rocco, president of Flanders Little League. “To see that he’s coming around after such a horrific accident, I think, is just inspiring, and that’s what Flanders Little League is truly about.”
Mr. Rocco said the Little League often invites local politicians or community leaders to throw out its first pitch, but this year they chose Spencer.
“He goes to school with all these kids, and basically every kid here knows his story, and this is the first time he’s been out and about, so it really gives the kids some reassurance that he’s going to make it,” Mr. Rocco said. He said Spencer “displays the perfect mixture of optimism and dedication.”
A press release sent out by Flanders Little League last week called Spencer “an incredible example of how, with optimism, anything is possible.”
“We were really touched that they would think of us,” Kathleen Shea said of the opportunity. They rceived an invitation about a month and a half ago and, at the time, weren’t sure Spencer would be able to make it, Ms. Shea said.
“We were practicing pitching last weekend and during the week; his therapist was practicing with him, too,” she said.
Spencer played baseball when he was younger, but is more into skateboarding now, his mom said.
Friends of the family came from as far away as Pennsylvania to see Spencer’s first pitch, and some relatives came from even farther, Ms. Shea said.
“I think it’s great, he’s made tremendous progress,” said Spencer’s aunt, Kim Jones, who came from Virginia Saturday with her husband, John.
The pitch? It was a little low and outside.
“He wasn’t a pitcher to begin with, so he did pretty good,” his mom said.
Saturday’s big turnout was typical of the level of community support Spencer has received since his accident. A Facebook “fan” page created for him had 2,215 fans as of Tuesday afternoon.
“A big thank-you to everyone who showed up today,” Ms. Shea wrote on the Facebook page Saturday.
Spencer suffered serious head injuries in the January crash when the car in which he was a passenger collided into several trees on Osborn and Reeves Avenue, ejecting him from the vehicle. The driver, Spencer’s 19-year-old brother, Luke, was charged with driving while intoxicated.
Friends and neighbors in the Riverhead area have also rallied around the ailing family through fundraisers and prayer services.