Landrum Cardinals Baseball

The Wreck Remembered…10 Years Later

On March 19th 2015,  I made one of my now rare trips on a District One activity bus with the baseball team to Woodruff, SC.   In my ten years as a volunteer for the baseball team I have made countless rides to away games but this had became more of a rarity since I began working a full-time job a couple years ago.   As the team unloaded I decided to stay back for a while and charge my electronic devices in order to provide coverage of that evenings games as my batteries were running low.   As i sat there in the silence of that bus many memories flooded back into my mind of my ten years with and around Landrum Baseball.  Sights, sounds, and yes even smells passed through my minds along with the faces I had the pleasure of being around.  As my devices reached their full charge I began to secure the bus to exit.  As I stepped off the bus to begin walking towards the field my eyes gazed on the bus numbering that identifies each activity bus for the district.   There it was:  The number 4.   Athletes have used it for competitions.  Students have used it for field trips but how many would know the signifigance behind Bus 4.   The current bus 4 holds no special place.  Its use has accompanied various victories and defeats but it’s predecessor taught me how precious life could be and helped a team come together to acheive their championship goals.

It was Wednesday March 30th 2005.   Landrum had entered into a baseball tournament hosted by Riverside High School.   The Cardinals in the first two days of the tournament found themselves on opposite ends of the baseball spectrum.   On that Monday it had defeated Berea 10-0.  The next night it would be 10 runned and 1 hit by tournament host Riverside.   On Wednesday it would set up what was then a rare matchup between Landrum and Blue Ridge.   Mark Rollins would deliver and early multi RBI double and Landrum would defeat Blue Ridge 3-1.   After the first three days Landrum would sit at 2-1 with a matchup vs. Boiling Springs set for Thursday.  Morale was high after defeating geographical rival Blue Ridge and the Cardinals would load Bus 4 for Landrum with smiles all around.   Well except for me that is.  I got into an argument with fellow Senior Blake Workman over something I cant remember.  All i do remember is that he poured red Gatorade all over my white hat and I was angry.  I was asked by coaches who was responsible but as all stupid young boys do who feel you cant snitch I wouldnt give him up.  (Blake if you want to come run poles now as punishment feel free).   So i rode the bus ride up Highway 14 in anger with my head down.  My pristine white hat RUINED.  I was ready to handle things the way testosterone filled young adult males do upon arriving back at the school.   I put my headphones on and listed to music to pass the time.   I always sat on the second row on the right side behind Coach Travis Henson and besides Chris Linder who sat on the left side seat.    Coach Henson as he frequently did had made his way to the back of the bus to talk to players and offer congratulations and encouragement to the players.  Most of the time I always looked straight ahead and talked to Coach Ray McCallister.  That night however I was looking straight down plotting my revenge.   I remember seeing Washington Baptist Church on the right hand side of the road and then put my head back down.  Shortly afterwards I could hear Coach McCallister begin to yell something loudly.  I figured someone was standing up at the back of the bus and he was sitting them down so I removed my headphones in time to hear him yell “Everybody sit down and hold on!”   The next thing I felt was the bus veering off the right side of the road.   We ran off the road about at a slow angle and down the road for about 100 feet before coming to a complete stop.  There was no violent feeling of an impact or loud noise to indicate a tire going down.  I thought that Coach Mac had just ran off the road for some reason.    We always did tease him about his driving.  As we came to a stop he informed us that a car had just struck the bus.   Some players began to indicate they could smell gas.  Everyone was ordered to exit the bus as quickly as possible.

Being at the front of the bus I was natually one of the first to exit.  After hearing reports of gas being smelled,  I exited and walked to a safe distance without looking back initially.   Some of the players on their way out had the unfortunate experience of seeing the car and its driver that had struck our bus.   Thats a memory that I thank God for not having everytime I relive that night.   As everyone filed out of the bus, the coaches took headcounts and thankfully everyone was present and accounted for.  Nobody on our bus was seriously hurt.  I finally took a look at the bus and the complete front left axel of the bus was caved up under the bus.  Our shock began to wear off and we all began to realize how lucky we were to even be alive.   In this somber moment I saw a group of young men who would normally pride theirselves in their toughness as any their age would, be reduced to tears.   The fear and thoughts of what could have been would not be immune to anyone.  Players, Managers, Coaches alike would each embrace each other in that moment.  Any beef or disagreements between each other had wiped away in that rain drenched section of Highway 14.

Like any other away game, the parents of the kids were either somewhere ahead or behind the bus heading back to Landrum.   Parents who were ahead of the bus shared their stories that they had nearly been ran off the road by the driver and tried to call back to the bus but it was too late.  If emotions of players were high comforting each other, they overflowed upon reuniting with their parents.   Police arrived on the quickly with School Administrators arriving shortly after.    We all began to analyze the scene around us.  In the ditch near the bus was a car that had the roof flattened.  None of saw anyone in the car but watched in amazement as police use the jaws of life to cut the top of the car off to find four people sandwiched inside still alive.   The car that had hit us had struck them before hitting us and knocked them into the ditch.  The only fatality was the driver of the car that was the cause of the accident.   As the investigators checked on everyone and had a look at the scene theirselves they made it very clear that everyone involved (The bus and the car ahead) were lucky to be alive.  They made the observation that based on the damage to the bus and its location that it was a miracle that the bus did not overturn.  We actually had went up a slight embankment and back down before coming to a stop.  The angle involved at impact and the speed we were going, we should have turned over.   According to the officer Coach McCallister literally saved my life and the future of the Landrum Baseball team that night.   Before we left the scene that evening we all gathered in a circle to pray.  To give thanks to God for his protection and mercy that evening.   What was a bad situation could have been much worse.

The next day a meeting was held by the team to see if the players were emotionally and mentally able to play.  They all voted to carry on and play that days game but mother nature would not allow it due to rain.  In that meeting you could tell that something was different though.  Something had changed.   Before the wreck everyone for the most part got along.  We had a great group of guys.   No team features a roster of individuals who completely get along but this team now had a common bond.  All the trivial day to day things that high school kids get into from time to time had been wiped away and those boys now had a deeper appreciation and love for each other.   The 2005 team was a talented bunch but i’m not sure they would have accomplished what they did without that experience together.   We would learn that the driver of car that struck the bus and was killed had a connection to the Landrum area.   The Baseball team would show honor his family in a great act of compassion and welcome his family with open arms.

Landrum would go on to capture the 2005 1-A State Championship and many of the players on that bus would be around for the success that would occour in the following years. A Landrum athletic team would not take Highway 14 after dark for due to concerns of safety for many years.   All of those faces from that evening have now graduated or moved on elsewhere.   Surprisingly I have became the last remaining face from that bus to still be around.   The guy who hated school the most has stuck around more after graduation than anyone in his class.  I used to joke with Linder that every year would be our last.  He beat me to it a few years ago.   After the wreck the family of the driver placed a small statue at the location of the wreck in his memory.  I used to look for it each time i drove to Greer.  As the years passed my frequency of checking for the statue became less and less.  Not out of disrespect but of just the hustle and bustle of life.   In the past couple of years the natural landscape has taken over the area and grass and plants have covered up the location of the statue.  I wasnt even sure if it was still there until a couple of months ago when i decided to stop and find it.  Sure enough behind the tall grass and plants in the darkness was the small statue, a reminder of that evening that could have changed the course of many lives forever.   Bus 4 was replaced the following year with a brand new model.  It was always an uneasy feeling to board but it always reminded those players who had been there to give everything they had because life is precious.   To me that will always be the legacy of Bus 4.

 

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