Following in Dad's Path

1 decade 2 years 1 month ago Sunday, August 20 2006 Aug 20, 2006 Sunday, August 20, 2006 10:12:54 PM CDT August 20, 2006 in Sports

"You try to position everything. I mean, you're just in the game, you're not out somewhere, you're not sitting down, you're not watching it, you're in it," he said.

He gets the desire to be in it from his dad, Jim, who isn't afraid to stick his chin out.

"You know pitching, I've sort of drawn back from that, getting my nose broken by one of his line drives this year," he said.

But a broken nose is nothing compared to the tragedy that put Jim in a wheelchair about 30 years ago.

"I was run over by a Jeep. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The guy decided to cut through a field and came over a 10-foot hill and it landed on my back," Jim explained.

"He was in the hospital, they told him he wouldn't be able to go anywhere again, he'd be in a nursing home the rest of his life. So when they told him he could go out and stuff, he was so happy," Nick added.

And now DeJong dedicates his life to helping others. He runs the Midwest Americans with Disabilities Act project, making sure stadiums like this one at the Little League World Series are wheelchair friendly.

"The world changes for you and then you have a decision, 'Are you going to go forward or sit around?' And it's the same decision you had this morning," Jim said.

Nick added, "He couldn't practically get up and show me where to put my feet and where to put my hands. He just moved my hands around and just tell me how to do this and how to do this."

Jim is also Nick's coach on the Daniel Boone Cubs, his title for the past seven years.

"A lot of people are like, 'That guy in the wheelchair shouldn't be on the field, he's going to get hurt.' And all that crazy stuff. And we're just really comfortable with it," said Nick's mom, Amy.

"I think he just recognizes that I get around a different way than other people and I'm still able to contribute and think and be his coach," said Jim.

"John Osborne, on the team, he always likes to have my dad around because he's like a second dad," said Nick.

A dad, a coach, and an inspiration.

"A big [inspiration]," added Nick.

"I think the same as when you're in a wheelchair, or the same if you're a ballplayer, the same if you're a human being... maximize your potential," said Jim.

Something that Jim DeJong does everyday. On a side note, Jim DeJong worked with MU, making sure the new basketball arena met wheelchair requirements.

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