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Freak baseball accident sidelines local athlete

Published July 02. 2010 05:00PM

A Summit Hill man was severely injured during a Lehigh Valley Legion baseball game June 23. Kevin Hoben, Lehighton's first base coach, was struck in the left eye by a ball while pitching during batting practice before the team's game against Lower Macungie.

"It wasn't a line drive," Hoben said. "It just ricocheted off the ground and hit me."

Hoben, a 2007 graduate of Panther Valley High School, was immediately rushed to nearby Lehigh Valley Hospital, where doctors determined he had fractured multiple bones around the orbit of his eye, as well as his left cheekbone. The most grievous injury was a rupture in the eye's globe, for which Hoben was transferred to Philadelphia's Wills Eye Institute.

He underwent surgery at Wills on June 24, coming out of the procedure with what looked to be promising results. At a recent follow up appointment, however, doctors informed Hoben that he was regressing, and that his vision in the injured eye would not return. In the following weeks, surgeons will replace the damaged eye with a prothesis.

"It's a terrible accident. There's nothing else that can be said," George Zellers, Lehighton's manager, said. "In 31 years of coaching, this is one of the worst things I've ever seen."

"You can't blame anyone for this. Unfortunately, accidents like this sometimes happen. We're all holding out hope for Kevin."

A rising senior at Lycoming College, Hoben is a member of the school's football team. During the 2009-2010 season, he was one of the squad's starting linebackers and was selected to the all-conference team. It's doubtful, however, that Hoben will lace up his cleats anytime soon.

"It's probably not gonna happen, at least for this year," he said, in reference to his playing for Lycoming. "My peripheral vision isn't the greatest."

Despite his injury, Hoben wishes to remain active with the team, and will be assisting the coaching staff this upcoming season.

"I'm staying positive," he said. "I know things could be a lot worse. I'm glad that I didn't lose my vision completely."

Hoben plans on returning to his coaching position with the Lehighton team as soon as doctors allow it. Although this is his first year as a coach, Hoben has an involved history with the team, having filled a spot on its roster as a player for three years.

"It makes you sick to your stomach to hear about this," Jerry Johnson, the head coach of Lower Macungie, said. "Especially when it's a guy who came back to his old team to help out younger players."

Johnson was present at the game when Hoben was injured, and said that the incident "definitely affected" his team.

"My heart goes out to Kevin and his family," he said. "We wish them nothing but the best."

According to Hoben, the most important thing during a time like this is keeping a clear head.

"I'm not just gonna sit around and mope," he said. "Yeah, this definitely sucks, but I could be in even worse shape."

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