15-year-old Jack Crowley’s survival story is helping save others


As a general rule, people who have died do not hold conversations very well.

Shoreham-Wading River High School sophomore Jack Crowley is an exception: The 15-year-old speaks with the verve and confidence of someone twice his age, constantly maintaining eye contact with his interlocutors. He is energetic and warm; a teenager who devoutly loves the Yankees yet openly admits that Fenway Park is kind of cool … sometimes.

On May 9, though, that energy almost slipped away. While playing around in the batting cages during his youngest brother’s baseball game, a zipping baseball struck Jack in the chest. His heart stopped and he could not breathe.

Jack was technically dead until an off-duty police officer revived him with an automatic external defibrillator.

Now, just over three months later, Jack is back on the baseball field and moving past his ordeal — though his mother certainly worries more now.

And Jack, a talkative, charming young man who is equally comfortable on the baseball field or talking at the front of a room, is expanding his experience to others. He has been a symbol for the community’s request: Purchase more AED machines and have them available at every school athletic event.

“I guess I’m alive for a reason, so I’ve got to make something of it,” he said.

For the split second before the ball hit him, it looked like an innocuous line drive.

Jack, the oldest of the three Crowley boys, was visiting the North Shore Little League baseball facility in Rocky Point with his mother and two brothers on that fateful May afternoon. His mother, Nancy, was watching her youngest son, Owen, in his game.

Meanwhile, Jack and Aidan, the 13-year-old middle brother, went to the batting cages to get in some time of their own. Those cages have no machines, so the two played the old-fashioned way: Jack, who splits his time between third base and pitcher, threw from behind a screen while Aidan practiced hitting.

Everything changed in an instant. Jack stepped out from behind the screen to pick up a ball and threw it to Aidan in one motion, a gesture more for fun than anything. He did not expect the ball to come right back at him.

Jack, who has been playing baseball for most of his life, thinks he should have caught that ball.

He didn’t.

“[Aidan] hit it right back into my chest,” Jack recalled. “For the first few seconds, I felt like I was fine. I’ve been hit by a ball hundreds of times before.”

Aidan froze and watched his brother. Jack staggered for a moment, then he fell.