By Denise Dick
Thousands cheer on boy, 5, injured by foul ball in ’09
By DENISE DICK
Luke Holko wound up and put the full force of his 50-pound-body weight behind the ball, throwing out the first pitch at the Mahoning Valley Scrappers game.
Sunday was Luke Holko Day at Eastwood Field, named for the 5-year-old Greene Township boy who was severely injured last September when a foul ball struck him in the head at a game.
Other than a slight wobble to his walk and slowed speech, Luke’s parents, Nicole and Chad Holko, say their son is back to himself.
“Anything you see, he doesn’t see it,” Nicole Holko said, referring to her son’s remaining deficits.
His father says he acts just like any other 5-year-old boy.
“He runs; he plays baseball,” Chad Holko said.
The family got to meet the ambulance crew from Lane LifeTrans that helped their son after the ball struck him.
The crew, Tom Lambert, Julie Forrest, Nate Durig, John Lightly and James Macskimmings, hugged and greeted the Holkos on the field.
“I just told them, without them, he wouldn’t be here,” Nicole Holko said.
The day was also a fundraiser for the family with half of the $5 ticket price going to the Luke Holko Fund. For insurance reasons, Luke’s therapy, which at one time was for six hours daily, is down to once monthly.
The stands were filled with fans who cheered the small player’s pitch. Luke received two baseballs too — the one he threw and an autographed one from the Aberdeen team.
“He’s 5 years old,” his dad said. “I’m not sure he really grasps all of it, but he’s having fun.”
Luke returned to Trumbull County for the first time Nov. 6 from hospitals in Akron and Cleveland. His movement Sunday demonstrated a marked difference.
“For four months, he couldn’t talk at all,” Nicole Holko said. “Then out of the blue, he said, ‘I love you’ and gave me a big hug.”
The first 1,000 fans attending the game received a set of Scrappers baseball cards, including a Luke Holko card. The back listed Luke’s vital statistics such as his favorite foods: cheese, chicken wings, tacos, hot dogs and salad with ranch dressing; and favorite movies: “Shrek,” “Cars” and “Open Season.”
The couple also expressed gratitude to the community for the outpouring of support.
“Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this,” Chad Holko said. “We’ve had tremendous support.”