Kevin Jordan Returns To The Field
See Also: Wake Forest Coach Donates Kidney To Player
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Nearly eight months after receiving a kidney from Wake Forest head coach Tom Walter, outfielder Kevin Jordan returned to the field for the first time during the Demon Deacons' first fall practice Sept. 27.
"This is a special day for me and for our program," Walter said. "I mean, to see Kevin out here running around and doing the things he's meant to do is pretty amazing."
Jordan needed a new kidney after developing a condition called antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody vasculitis during his senior year of high school.
After establishing himself as a marquee prospect as a high school junior, Jordan played sparingly and was not at 100 percent during his senior season but was still drafted in the 19th round by the Yankees.
Two days before classes began last year, a doctor's visit revealed that his kidney function was down to 8 percent and a transplant was recommended as soon as possible. When his mother and brother were ruled out as matching donors, Walter stepped up to the plate for the transplant, which took place Feb. 7.
Jordan said Walter offered to be tested as a potential match during Jordan's first visit to the doctor.
"Seeing as how I met him and talked to him just a couple times before all this, it means a lot," Jordan said. "I'll always know what kind of person he is, no matter what happens from here on out."
Walter said the transplant hasn't just brought he and Jordan closer together, it's bonded the entire team.
"It strengthened my relationship with all my guys," Walter said. "Through all this, we're a closer unit as a whole. I think the guys have a new appreciation of what coaches go through on a daily basis just because they watched a little more closely because of this. Not that it was sympathy or anything like that, it's just that they kind of had their eye on it a little more than they normally would. So I think all of our guys are closer because of this."
Jordan kept a positive attitude through the whole process.
"The whole time, I just felt like something good was going to happen," he said. "Even if I didn't play baseball at this level again, I wasn't going to be in that situation forever. Everything happened relatively quick, so I didn't have time to doubt myself."
Although he said he's not quite 100 percent yet, Jordan has been cleared to participate in all baseball activities.
One of the biggest challenges will be overcoming any tentativeness and getting back to his usual instinctive style of play—he hasn't had to dive for a ball yet or slide head-first into third base.
Jordan, who will be a redshirt freshman this year, was able to practice a little bit with his old high school team last spring. There is some rust to shake off, but he was in great shape considering all he's been though. After losing 30 pounds because of the sickness, the dialysis and the transplant, Jordan got the weight back quickly. He's back to 195 pounds now . . with just 6.3 percent body fat, he added with a smile.
"I thought he looked fantastic," Walter said. "I mean, he ran a 6.58(-second) 60-yard dash and he did it back-to-back times. One of the things we're kind of looking at is his stamina, and I thought that looked pretty good today. He's certainly not 100 percent yet, and the other thing is his timing. Anytime you take a year and a half away from baseball, it's going to take you a while to get your timing back. So he's going to take a little while in BP and in game situations to get caught back up, but he's such a good athlete that he should make that adjustment pretty easily."
Opening Day is still more than four months away, but Walter believes Jordan will be a key piece of Wake Forest's lineup this season.
"We're hoping that he's going to be a starting outfielder and hit in the two-hole," Walter said. "That's the current plan. He has the athletic ability and the baseball skills to do that. Whether it comes between now and February—the timing's all the way back and the stamina's all the way back—remains to be seen, but if we were opening up tomorrow, I'd put him in the lineup."