Ballplayer rallies, defeats injuries: Car crash couldn’t keep Lahman off field

During a game in October, Payton Lahman’s Delaware Bombers teammates wore his No. 7. From left are coach Garry Courtney, Sam Courtney, Payton and Cole Edwards. Submitted photo

DOVER — Doctors thought he’d still be in bed after six months.

Instead, Payton Lahman was back out on the baseball diamond getting ready for his senior season at Polytech High nearly six months to the day.

On Sept. 2 last year, just two days before his senior year started, Lahman was involved in a serious car crash that left him with a shattered kneecap and broken tibia in his right leg and a broken left ankle.

“I was going around a turn and I hydroplaned into a tree,” said Lahman, 18, who is working towards becoming an electrician. “I was kind of disappointed in myself, because I didn’t know where I was, and I was going a little bit faster than I should’ve been going and I ended up hitting the tree.

“I really had no emotion. If I wanted to cry, I probably couldn’t, just because I had so many things running through my head. I tried to keep a straight mind; things were only going to get better from there, I guess.”

Lahman and a friend had just left the house of Garry Courtney, his Dover-based Delaware Bombers travel baseball coach. A few hours later he was in a hospital bed and was facing surgery.

“It’s a call that a parent doesn’t want to get,” said his mother, Cheryl Lahman. “It was just an ordinary day, a Sunday, and we always go to his grandparents for dinner. I’m sitting there after dinner, talking to my mom, and I get that call that you don’t want to get.”

Payton Lahman fields a grounder and throws the ball to first base from the shortstop position. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

Lahman was transferred from Dover to A.I. duPont Hospital and underwent a successful six-hour surgery early the next morning.

After a hospital stay that lasted five to six days, Lahman was released and in a wheelchair for about a month and a half to two months. He regularly went to physical therapy for nearly three months.

Baseball was his biggest motivation for recovery.

“I was recovering really fast,” he said. “My physical therapist was good, my dad used to go to him for his knee surgeries. I was on a treadmill within two months and I felt great.

“Every time I went back to the doctors, they were stunned at how quick I was going. They were telling me things I shouldn’t be doing, that I was doing, but it felt natural at that point.”

Lahman had joined the Bombers travel team, coached by Courtney and assistant Pat Jones, at age 15, but last summer was set to be the team’s final season. The accident changed things.

Courtney made a promise: if Lahman recovered in time, the Bombers would play one more season this summer.

“This year wasn’t even supposed to happen, the only reason we’re playing this year is because I got in my crash and he promised me another season if I recovered in time,” Lahman said. “He said he’d get the team together and we’d play again just because of that.”

“That was our deal,” said Courtney. “The amazing part was it wasn’t too long after the surgery that he started sending me videos of him walking with the walker.”

Not only did Lahman recover in time to play summer ball, but he was ready to go by the time spring practice started for school ball March 1.

“One day, it was a weekend, and my son Sam had everyone over playing basketball and I looked out the window and there he is,” said Courtney. “It was before school ball started, so that was about the end of February.”

The day after surgery, Payton Lahman receives a visit from friends and teammates. From left are Korey Hendricks, Sam Courtney, Cole Edwards and Nolan Jones. Submitted photo

The recently-graduated Lahman played third base for the Panthers this spring and has been playing shortstop for the Bombers, who are now 6-1 (5-0 in league play) on the season.

Lahman is attending Polytech night school to get his journeyman’s electrician’s license and currently works at Shureline Electrical in Smyrna.

“He has not missed a beat,” said Courtney. “My son plays second base, and the two of them together in the middle infield are just unbeatable. He was the fastest person on the team before the accident, and now he’s maybe the second-fastest.”

“Everything about the accident turned out so much better than it could have,” said Cheryl Lahman. “He’s strong-willed, and he knew from the beginning that he was going to get himself straightened out. He’s done well, and I attribute it all to him.”

Aside from the pain of the leg injuries, which he said felt like he had taken a sledgehammer to the knee, Lahman claimed that one of the most difficult parts about the accident was the pain he put his family and friends through.

“Probably the most difficult part about the accident was getting it through my head that it actually happened, and the pain I put other people through, like my mom. I didn’t like that part of it,” he said.

Lahman has just a handful of games left in his competitive baseball career, but he says he’s just happy to be out there with his teammates again.

“I look at every day as a ‘you live and you learn.’ Everything that goes wrong happens for a reason,” he said.

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