West Union student inspires team, school

Despite recent tragedy, one local athlete has taken what could have been a devastating situation and turned it into inspiration for his team, coaches and school.

On January 21, Ben Kirk was assuming his role on the West Union baseball team during their practice. Kirk was gathering balls during a hitting drill and was struck by a bat, resulting in him losing his left eye.

Since the accident, Kirk has had several surgeries, and after being released from LeBonheur, Kirk returned to school on Thursday. His first act upon returning, to thank the team, coaches, administration and school for their support over the last three weeks.

“I put this presentation together whenever I was in LeBonheur,” Kirk explained. “I felt like they gave me more than I could ask for, so I decided that I wanted to give them something back.”

Kirk asked that the junior high and high school students gather for the presentation, where he presented Coaches Ashley Russell and Jamey Wright with plaques, thanking them for their support, encouragement and inspiration. Kirk also presented his teammates with a painting, made by his cousin.

As tears streamed from the team and audience, “Lean on Me” was played as Kirk hugged each of his teammates, coaches and Principal Paul Correro.

“I think it’s a very emotional thing,” Correro said. “I think it’s inspiring as well. You have to think a lot of the young man. He’s gone through so much with the accident, yet he has such a positive outlook.”

“I think it’s awesome what he did today,” Russell said. “This young man has been through a lot, and the fact that while he was going through it, he thought of us, really shows what kind of person he is.”

Ashley described the effects of the accident on the team as well as him and knows that this is a life changing experience.

“The first few days were tough, but I’m thankful I had my family, coaches and administration there to help me through it. The prayers definitely made the difference and this has brought me closer to God.”

Kirk is both blessed and thankful that the accident was not any worse and held the program to show that there are no hard feelings and he wants to continue to be a part of this team.

“The past three weeks have been tough, but the Lord gave me a blessing because I’m still standing here.”

Although he will not be able to play this season, Kirk is excited about his new role with the Eagles.

“I’ll probably be a bat boy or manager. Coach said he has a position for me,” Kirk said.

A true inspiration for his team and fellow students, Kirk has given the West Union Eagles something to play for in 2009.