The Night the World Changed

For Marshall Looney and his family, health matters for the past three years have centered around the condition of his left arm. Then on Sept, 3, it all changed for a day that started out being the happiest of their lives turned into long moments of apprehension and sheer fright as with dramatic suddeness his pitching arm became irrelevant replaced by what had happened to a newborn baby.

Marshall entered the Dodger system as a sixth-round draft choice in 2002, a kid from a timy town in Oregon who made a big impression in the Gulf Coast League where in his final five outings he was 2-0 while not allowing a run and striking out 14 in 18 innings. However during that stretch his arm began aching; so much so that he had to be shut down.

He had his left shoulder scoped in 2003 , missing the entire season while rehabbing. He started back in 2004 only to have his elbow flare up so in October of that year, he underwent Tommy John surgery. Once more he was in in rehab, toiling to get back on the field again.

Off the field, though, there were bright spots especially marrying his high school sweetheart Shasta on Jan. 10, 2004. They moved into an apartment in Vero Beach, then discovered early this year that she was pregnant with a boy. If only he could get his arm healed and return to his early form, life would be indeed sweet.

On Sept. 3, Shasta went into labor so was taken to Indian River Memorial Hospital where a boy they had decided to name Deakon was born. There had been no hint of problems yet minutes after his birth, the infant was struggling to breath. Doctors labored diligently and a specialist was quickly called in. It was discovered that his trachia was connected to his esophygus and the passage was blocked.

A midwife, who had assisted in the delivery, had left the hospital. When she got home, she got on the internet to find information that could help. Contact was made with Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando and it was decided to rush the baby there by helicopter. A further complication developed when bad weather grounded the flight so Deakon was put in an ambulance instead.

Marshall, of course, accompanied him and was on hand when Deakon was taken into surgery. His little body was split open from the chest to his back . A three-hour operation ensued. "The longest three hours of my life," says Marshall about the agony of awaiting the outcome.

The procedure was successful in saving Deakon's life as the two organs were separated. However, his vocal cords may have been impared for they were entangled as well. Doctors, knowing Marshall is an athlete, informed him that it is doubtful that Deakon will ever be strong enough to play sports.

But he will live and for Marshall that's more than enough. "I don't care at all about the sports. Oh, sure, I would love to have seen my boy be an athlete but that's really not important now."

The baby was kept in the Orlando facility for 17 days of treatment before being released. He's home now and every parent understands that Marshall regularly gets up in the middle of the night to check on the sleeping boy just to make sure that all is going well.

Marshall's back on the field now, throwing from a new sidearm angle to ease the strain on his shoulder and elbow. He's also throwing with a new purpose for, "Before it was a game that I loved and what I wanted to be. Now I have a family to provide for."

He and Shasta have always said prayers each evening in which "We have always asked God to care for our families and friends. Now we add the families of the world especially the little children."

If you're the praying kind, how about adding one for a player that deserves a break on the field and especially a tiny boy who's fighting for one in life.