EVART – When Danny Witbeck collapsed on the court during basketball practice this winter, no one could have anticipated he would return to playing sports as quickly as he did.
Witbeck went into cardiac arrest that day, and quick action by his coaches and teammates helped save his life. At the time, playing sports was off the table.
“Doctors told him that he wasn’t going to be able to play sports anymore and he just told them ‘no I will,'” Evart baseball coach Josh Johnson said.
“I didn’t care what they told me, I was going to go out there and do what I love to do,” Witbeck said.
Remarkably, Witbeck was able to return to the court by senior night of the basketball season.
“I was able to get in the gym and do some stuff during basketball and then pursue everything toward baseball.”
But Witbeck playing this spring made his baseball coach nervous.
“It seemed like every practice I’m always asking ‘hey Danny, you okay? You okay?’ And he’s always smiling and saying ‘I’m fine, Coach,'” Johnson said.
Johnson is certainly thankful Witbeck did play, however, as he struck out 176 batters and earned All-State honors while leading Evart to a regional championship.
“It was so exciting just to get back out there and be with all the guys again,” Witbeck said.
When the season ended, it seemed Witbeck’s time playing competitive sports may have ended too. Until a few weeks ago, when Witbeck got a call from Northwood University’s baseball coach.
“I know how much Danny really wants to play at Northwood. He was already commited to go there for school anyways,” Johnson said.
Northwood wanted Witbeck to come down and throw a bullpen session in front of the coaches.
“At the end he said, ‘I have a spot for you if you want to take it,’ so I said yes,” Witbeck said.
Just five months after collapsing on the court, Danny Witbeck is going to play in college.
Johnson said he’s extremely proud of Witbeck and doesn’t know if Witbeck truly understands the influence he’s had on the Evart community.
“I don’t think Danny will ever quite realize the impact he’s had on our kids. He’s such a good role model and the kids just love him and rightfully so.”
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