Baseball gives California man new purpose after stroke

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The sound of a metal bat on a leather ball is so ubiquitous in America -- most of us would never think twice about it. But a couple years ago, across the street from Arlington High School in Riverside, Calif., a man named Donnie Edison heard that sound from his back door, and it changed everything.

Donnie said, "That ping kind of sound. ... It gave me hope."

A few weeks earlier, at the age of 36, Donnie suffered a stroke that destroyed pretty much the whole right half of his brain.

Donnie Edison after he suffered a stroke at the age of 36. CBS
When he got home from the hospital, he could get around in a wheelchair, but found little reason to get off the couch -- until he heard that ping.

"That saved my life," Donnie said.

Donnie told his wife Natalia to take him to that batting practice.

Natalia said, "So we load up the wheelchair and we come down."

Asked if that was a one-time thing, Natalia said, "No!"

Donnie said, "That became everything. ... Just going to batting practice."

Never mind that he didn't have a kid on the team. Never mind that it wasn't even his Alma mater. He just liked baseball that much.

One baseball player said, "At first it was kind of weird, I was like, who is this guy?

Another player said, "But then we got used to him there."

So used to him, the coach eventually asked Donnie to be his assistant, which gave Donnie a purpose he'd never known before.

Donnie Edison CBS News
Prior to the stroke, Donnie worked as a bartender. He had no real direction. Coaching changed that. He learned to walk again. He enrolled in college, and is now studying to be a special-ed teacher. He volunteers at Arlington -- working with special-ed kids both in the classroom and on the baseball field where he has introduced them to the joys of whiffle ball. "There's nothing like seeing these kids just run and smile and having fun," Donnie said.

In fact, his life has changed so much; Donnie now says he's actually thankful he had that stroke.

He said, "(I'm) thankful that this happened, because if this didn't happen, then I would just be doing the same daily grind that I was, you know, just going to work every day to pay my mortgage, you know."

There's no sweeter sound than a found purpose -- or at least, not many.

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.