08/10/2017 8:18 AM
Regardless of the outcome of the Borough Cup U-14 championship game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Bonnie Paws shortstop Manai Hutchinson is already a winner.
Last year, the teen from East Flatbush in Brooklyn was enjoying a fine season for the Bonnies, who were in the midst of a nationally ranked U-13 campaign. On the July 4 weekend, the club was playing in a tournament in Massachusetts.
After winning the tourney, the team returned to its hotel in Vermont. But the celebratory mood soon turned to horror. Around midnight, Hutchinson was discovered on the floor alongside his bed, and he wasn't breathing.
His father, Al, heard Manai fall from the bed and quickly acted, starting CPR on his son, who would soon be airlifted by helicopter to Boston Children's Hospital.
"Manai had gone into cardiac arrest in the hotel room," recalled Al Hutchinson, who had learned CPR from his time working in a group home. "It was very scary."
Once at the hospital, Manai was diagnosed with a very rare disease where the area around the heart is inflamed, and the ailment was spreading to his other organs, including his eyes and liver.
"His heart was at 180-190 beats per minute," recalled Al. " The doctors said that if it had been someone who wasn't as physically active as Manai that he wouldn't have survived."
Manai would end up spending a month at Boston Children's Hospital, including the first 11 days of his stay in I.C.U.
Bonnies manager Kevin Rice and the players commuted to visit Manai during his hospitalization in Boston, and the youngster also was contacted by some of the city's pro teams, including the Red Sox, Bruins and soccer's New England Revolution.
But it was seeing the Bonnies that really inspired Manai.
"He never stopped thinking about playing baseball. It kept him motivated," said Al Hutchinson.
Manai was medically cleared to play in early February of this year, and started working out in earnest around April.
"But it was rough," said Al. "It took time for his brain to relearn his body. All that muscle memory was gone. He had to relearn all of those baseball mechanics."
Manai, however, stuck with it, and he played this past spring as a freshman for the Archbishop Molloy HS JV team. He may have even been more eager to rejoin the Bonnies, knowing an opportunity to compete at Yankee Stadium awaited the finalists of the Borough Cup.
And that's exactly where Manai Hutchinson will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, as the Paws face the Williamsburg Sports League All Stars.
The best news of all is that he's healthy.
"Manai had a lot of procedures and tests to make sure the disease is gone ... and it is. He's doing great," noted his father. "He's had follow-up visits with the cardiologist, and he's doing well."