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Lake Oswego's Jack Ferraro continues recovery with his friends in baseball.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lake Oswego senior Jack Ferraro (here flanked by parents Alison Goldwater and Rob Ferraro) was celebrated by friends, family, teammates and supporters at the Lakers' April 15 game against Lakeridge. Ferraro, continuing his recovery from a near-fatal car crash, threw out the first pitch at the game.Son. Friend. Student. Teammate.

Those are the words that define Jack Ferraro these days.

Ferraro, 17 and a senior at Lake Oswego High School, is glad that people are starting to see him that way.

He's glad that people don't just see him as the survivor of the serious auto accident that nearly took his life in November of 2018. On that day, Ferraro and two of his freshman classmates were injured in a head-on crash with a dump truck that took the life of one of his friends' fathers.

But Ferraro — the son of Alison Goldwater and Rob Ferraro — isn't defined by that accident anymore. Not by the accident, not by the injuries to his body and not by the brain injury that so dramatically changed his life.

Ferraro celebrated another step in his new definition on Friday, April 15, when he stepped onto the baseball field at Lake Oswego High School to throw out the first pitch at the {obj:62111:Lakers series finale against Lakeridge}.

After an announcement to the crowd about Ferraro's story, his first pitch, the national anthem and a gathering of both teams, with the Lakers to Ferraro's right and the Pacers to his left (he played with many of the Lakeridge players growing up, too), it was game time.

The weight of the moment was not lost on Ferraro.

"I've probably played baseball with every single one of the guys on both teams at one point in my life or another," Ferraro said. "That was cool."

"Being able to be in the dugout with the group, it means the world to him," Goldwater said. "He's really happy just being a part of the team, being in the meetings, helping out where he can."

The long road

Getting to that first pitch, however, required a long, challenging — and ongoing — journey for Ferraro.

The accident itself was an incredibly violent and devastating event that put Ferraro in the hospital for months, ended his promising baseball career and nearly took his life.

"It was very unlikely that he was actually going to make it," Goldwater said. "And then when he turned the corner, they really didn't know what he could be. But he has surpassed anyone's expectations given how severe his injuries were. It's actually a pretty incredible story."

Ferraro showed off one aspect of his recovery during his appearance before the Lakers' April 15 game. A left-handed pitcher and outfielder during his playing days, Ferraro suffers from hemiparesis — paralysis of the left side of his body — that left him with a pronounced gait and forced him to learn how to throw right-handed.

His recovery is ongoing, a daily part of his life that includes continuing therapy and showcases his continued progress.

"He had to re-learn how to do everything," Goldwater said. "He was left-handed when the accident happened, but he no longer has use of his left arm so he became right-handed. He walks, but when you see him, he walks with a pretty pronounced gait. We're doing some things to try to help him with that, but he just doesn't have the functionality he used to have."

COURTESY PHOTO - Jack Ferraro (middle row, third from left) was a legitimate player during his years on the baseball diamond, as a lefthanded pitcher, speedy runner and surehanded outfielder.

Talented and inspirational

Back in the day, Ferraro was a legitimate prospect. A fearless left-handed pitcher, one of the fastest players on his team, a polished hitter and a solid, sure-handed outfielder, he seemed destined to make an impact on the Laker varsity team.

"Jack is the type of baseball player every coach loves to have," said Trevor Wilson, one of Ferraro's youth coaches. "Besides his very athletic gifts, he was attentive and could apply the instruction he was given."

Beyond his natural ability, however, Ferraro impacted his coaches and teammates with his attitude, effort, passion and his characteristic smile.

"Jack is and has always been an inspiring young man," said Chomo Santana, another one of Ferraro's youth coaches. "Jack was our team motivator. (He) accepted his role as a rotational player while wanting to become one of the best. His hard work, charismatic smile and passion for the game taught all of us how to be the best and help him pursue his dream of baseball."

Ferraro's love of baseball played a huge role in his life, but it also seeped into every aspect of his family life.

"He was good. It was his passion. It was his dream," Goldwater said. "It's always the parents that kind of try to keep things in perspective, but he played it because he loved it. Did I think he was going to major leagues? I always joked that he was going to be my left-handed pitcher for the Yankees."

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Jack Ferraro came together with teammates and friends Grant Maxwell (from left), Kellen Krebs, Andrew Wong and Dawson Santana before throwing out the first pitch at the Lakers' series finale against Lakeridge on April 15.

Always a teammate

The Lakers have shared their dugout, their games and many of their practices with Ferraro throughout his high school career. And Ferraro's friends and teammates — they were usually one and the same — were glad to share the spotlight with him before facing the Pacers.

"It's awesome to have him back in the dugout during games and practice," said Lake Oswego senior Kellen Krebs, a longtime teammate who got to catch Ferraro's first pitch. "When he was gone during freshman year, something felt 'off' (because) I have played with him my whole life. Seeing him down at the field cheering us all on puts a smile on my face and motivates me to do my best."

"Jack's always been a big part of this team," said LO senior Andrew Wong. "He shows up for practices and suits up for games, but having him … throw out the first pitch (was) a huge morale boost for the team."

Beyond the celebration, however, beyond the TV cameras and special attention, Ferraro was just glad to be back where he's spent so much of his life — on the baseball field with his friends.

"(The best part was) just getting to see all the kids I hadn't gotten to see in a long time and getting to spend time with all of them," Ferraro said. "(It was meaningful) because it's going to be the last year that I get to do it."

While Ferraro has been unable to return to action as a player, his teammates say that his presence continues to be meaningful.

"Before and after the accident, Jack still is one of the hardest workers I know. He goes to physical therapy Monday, Wednesday and Friday," Wong said. "And as a friend, nothing has changed. He still finds the good in every situation and still has the ability to make an entire room laugh."

"Jack has kept the same attitude and personality that we all love," Krebs said. "I still see Jack as Jack, even after the accident. He was a great baseball player and person before the accident, and even though baseball is … out of the picture, he hasn't lost his great sense of humor and sincerity that you like to be around."

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Jack Ferraro showed off one aspect of his recovery when the former lefthander threw out the first pitch — righthanded — at the Laker Oswego baseball team's series finale against Lakeridge on April 15.

What lies ahead

The gains that Ferraro has made over the past three years are nothing short of incredible. From his near-death experience following the accident, through surgeries, over the course of his lengthy hospital stay and uncounted sessions of physical therapy, Ferraro has persevered, worked and succeeded beyond almost anyone's expectations.

During his long recovery, Ferraro has re-learned how to walk, eat and talk, and how to write with his right hand. He also returned to school at LOHS where he will graduate with a 3.6 grade point average (in essentially three years after earning just half an English credit and half a science credit in his freshman year).

Next up, Ferraro will take on a new challenge as a college freshman in the fall, likely at the University of Arizona or the University of Denver (both schools have programs to assist students with cognitive challenges). While he has always wanted to pursue a career in medicine, Ferraro is unsure if that will be his eventual field of study.

"The one area that I'm really working with him on is 'You can be whatever you want,'" Goldwater said. "If you decide you want to be a doctor, I believe you can do it. If you decide you don't want to be a doctor, that's fine. But I want you to make that decision. Not because you're afraid, but because you've decided that doesn't interest you anymore."

If his future career or success are determined by effort and determination, Ferraro is a solid bet.

"The words that I use … most to describe him are strength, determination and perseverance," Goldwater said. "And it has really served him well. He has never once given up. He has never once said 'Why me?' He just keeps moving forward and doesn't look back. And it's really a testament with all of the challenges that he faces to the kind of human being that he is."

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Jack Ferraro took his place among his teammates on the banners adorning the varsity baseball field at Lake Oswego High School this spring.

Looking forward

While no one knows what lies ahead for Ferraro, everyone who knows him expects great things.

"Jack is an amazing young man with a bright future ahead," Santana said. "It's not measured in quantity; it's measured in quality. Jack will continue to work hard in life and succeed beyond all of our expectations."

"He is the most incredible human being you'll ever meet," Goldwater added. "I may be biased, but I think if you talk to other people, you will probably get that same."

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