Dirt clouds floated above the baseball diamond as softballs whirled through the air and determined players rushed from base to base.
On Oct. 26, nine teams, made up of over 100 participants, were competing for the trophy in a softball tournament at the Essex County Little League Park in Tappahannock.
And it was all for one man, 35-year-old local Brian Gracik.
On Aug. 20, the Heathsville resident and UPS Driver was playing with water balloons with his children and nephews on a hotel balcony, enjoying his first family vacation in Nags Head, when the unimaginable happened.
As Brian was throwing a water balloon, he slipped on the balcony’s surface, and the momentum carried him over the railing.
Brian plummeted three stories, his fall broken by a vehicle parked beside the hotel. Brian’s longtime girlfriend Leslie George broke her foot in her rush to reach his side.
“I remember rolling off the car and landing straight down on the pavement,” said Brian. “When Leslie got to me, I could feel her tear drops hitting my face and her saying, ‘I love you, please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me, I love you, please don’t leave me.’”
Brian said Leslie kept him alert, asking him his children’s names and how old they were until the paramedics arrived.
Brian suffered several major injuries from the fall. His wrist was crushed, he blew both hips out of his sockets, he had a hairline fracture in his shoulder, he broke several ribs, his pelvis was broken right through and he had a broken femur.
The fall also bruised both a lung and kidney and damaged his spleen.
“It’s been an ordeal,” Brian said before describing over $200,000 in medical expenses accumulated from the accident.
Tappahannock resident Ben Roberts, who went to Washington and Lee High School with Brian, helped put together the tournament along with Eric Jenkins, Tracy Edwards, April Brooks and Ben’s wife Erica Roberts. Michael Clark also assisted with the tournament.
Brian, who came home from the hospital last Thursday, was able to come out and watch some of the games for “quite a few hours,” according to Ben.
“The doctors are amazed on how quick I’m healing,” said Brian, who was able to accept the monetary donations at the ballpark.
Ben said the event raised over $2,000 that could be used to help Brian in any way possible, be it with medical expenses or assisting him while he is sidelined from his work.
“Every bit helps, especially having two kids,” said Brian.
Ben added that most of the players who came out to participate either knew Brian or had some connection to him.
Brian was emotional in describing what his friends’ efforts meant to him.
“You know, I get choked up about all of it because I’ve had so many people that I’ve known, are friends that have gone beyond to put benefits on and just be there,” said Brian, his voice breaking. “I can’t describe how much it means. Any time you need like that and your friends step up when they don’t have to but they do it anyway, it means so much.”
Brian added that it meant so much to him that “all those boys that I used to play ball with and that I hung out with and I grew up with” came out to play ball in a tournament that benefitted him and his family.
Brian was grateful to the men and women who organized the tournament and to everyone else who helped pitched additional benefits in an effort to assist him.
“Words just can’t explain it,” said Brian, adding his tremendous appreciation for the support shown to him by his workplace, the community, his friends and family.