Basalt coach breaks six bones in face |

Basalt coach breaks six bones in face

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT Basalt coach Rick Ryan reached over to touch the left side of his face Wednesday. He knew he was in trouble.A moment earlier, Ryan was hitting ground balls to his players in the Basalt High School gym. One player charged and bobbled the ball, but Ryan, who turned to receive a ball from the first baseman standing 10 feet to his right, missed it. In his haste to throw to first, the player momentarily lost his line of sight, mistook Ryan for the first baseman, and fired the ball at a high rate of speed from close proximity. Ryan turned his head just in time to see the ball bearing down on him. It hit his face, pushing his cheek bone back and cracking his orbital bone. Blood filled his sinuses, then started rushing onto the floor as Ryan dropped to his knees. The gym was silent, Ryan said. “I couldn’t feel my cheek bone. I put my hand over there and felt it go in. The ball had a lot on it,” Ryan said Thursday. “I turned to one of the guys helping me and said, ‘I think I’m really hurt.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Oh yeah.'”I was really worried then.”Paramedics responded to a 911 call from a Longhorns player. Soon, an ambulance made its way from El Jebel to the school. Ryan was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital; his family was there to greet him.”I think [my wife] Dawn laughed at me when she first saw me,” Ryan joked. “I was a mess.”Ryan stayed in the hospital overnight. Friday, he returned to meet with a plastic surgeon who determined Ryan had six broken bones. He’s hoping to schedule surgery next week in Grand Junction, at which point doctors will try to rebuild his face with titanium inserts and an ear, nose and throat specialist will repair his damaged sinuses. But Ryan’s main concern doesn’t center on impending surgery.”I’ve put this program off to a rough start,” he said. “That’s the tradition around here.”Before the start of last season, the Longhorns lost senior pitcher Nick Harris, who broke his back during a snowboarding accident. This year’s first few weeks have been similarly inauspicious: Senior standout Tucker Hinchliffe is out indefinitely with a separated shoulder and injured sternum sustained in a skiing accident. And senior centerfielder Colin Matheny has tonsillitis. In Ryan’s absence, baseball is on hold in Basalt. Because there are no other certified coaches currently on the staff, practices for the near future have been called off. Luckily, the Longhorns scheduled scrimmage today in Rifle was canceled because the field is not ready. The Longhorns open the regular season against Grand Valley in less than two weeks.If he doesn’t head to Grand Junction on Monday, Ryan said he’ll sit in the gym and oversee practice. Coincidentally, Ryan once fractured a teammate’s face with a throw while playing shortstop. Ryan was turning a double play and his teammate, who was running the bases, didn’t slide and took the throw from 5 feet away in the side of the face.”I guess this is my penance,” Ryan joked. “I hope karma doesn’t work like this in every situation or my life from here on out may be rough.”Ryan tried his best to remain upbeat Friday, although he admitted the pain remains a constant struggle. His teeth and lips on the left side of his face are numb, he can’t blow his nose, bend down or chew – it could further affect the alignment of his bones. He can’t wait to return to normalcy – and the field.”I need to back on the field as soon as possible, but there will definitely be some steps,” he said. “I suppose I’ll come out a little better looking. That can’t hurt.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is


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