Nick Healton didn’t know if he would be physically able to play baseball anymore.
Then a freshman at Seminole Ridge, Healton was diagnosed with Osteochrondritis dissecans, a joint disorder, and would need surgery to fix his right elbow. After having surgery to replace the bone and cartilage with grafts from his knee, he needed surgery to do the same with his left elbow.
“There was probably around a 25 or 30 percent chance that I wasn’t going to be able to fully recover,” Healton said. “They just wanted to give me an elbow that would get me through my everyday life. … I’m pretty blessed that I’m able to play again.”
Healton worked his way back from the surgery and had the chance to play baseball again. He is even signed to play college baseball for Northwest Missouri State when his high school career ends.
Now Healton is trying to raise money for a special-needs baseball league so others who may not always have a chance to play the sport will have an opportunity. The Seminole Ridge senior is hosting the first “Home Runs Can Help” home run derby at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bob Marcello Park (Field 5) to raise money for the Royal Palm Beach Sunshine Baseball League.
“The league has always kind of struggled with getting all the equipment, jerseys and all that, and the end-of-year dinner,” Healton said. “I really just wanted to make the best experience for the kids.”
Healton has gotten several players from his team and others around the county to participate, spreading word of the derby through social media. But he and his mother, Mary, are hoping more people will come out to either participate in the derby ($15 to register) or enjoy the activities surrounding it. They are planning to hold raffles, have food and and play music while the players take their cuts.
Healton is going on his third year volunteering with the Sunshine Baseball League, though he didn’t start volunteering with the league purely out of altruism, since all Palm Beach County public high school students, he needed volunteer hours to graduate. But he had an idea about wanting to help kids play baseball, so he found the league and started volunteering. Teammate Zach Entinger has also volunteered with the league with Healton.
“I just needed volunteer hours for school, and it seemed like a good idea, like something I’d want to do,” Healton said. “I play every day and it’s no big deal because it’s athletic. Some kids aren’t blessed with that ability. So it’s always been a dream to just help those kids out.”
The Sunshine Baseball League has divisions that range from 6-and-under to adult leagues; it’s open to people with special needs and their siblings. It costs $25 for Royal Palm Beach residents to register, and $30 for non-residents. Registration runs through Jan. 10 at the Royal Palm Beach recreation center.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, just because I’d never done something like that,” Healton said. “But once I got into it, and I started to see how the kids reacted to me and how I help them, I just couldn’t get enough of it.”