From the Sports Editor: Briggs just happy to be back in game

Aaron Briggs

Aaron Briggs

Twenty-five days is a long time to sit around and think about anything.

But when doctors are trying to decide whether or not you have have cancer, 25 days is excruciating.

For Aaron Briggs, his hospital stay two years ago seemed like an eternity.

“When you hear that word, you just start thinking about life in a different perspective,” said the former Caesar Rodney High multi-sport athlete.

“It definitely was different just sitting on that bed, thinking about everything — twenty-five long days just sitting there thinking, not doing anything.”

Briggs tells the story after finishing up batting practice with the Wesley College baseball team on this warm Friday afternoon.

The 21-year-old looks like his old self again.

His biceps are back and so are the 190 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame.

“It’s a new beginning,” said Briggs. “I’m excited, for sure.”

Certainly, Briggs’ outlook on life is a whole lot brighter than it was back when a mysterious illness was kicking his butt.

At first, doctors thought it might be lymphoma. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

They finally decided that Briggs might have had some form of mononucleosis. They still don’t know for sure.

All Briggs knows is that he lost 30 pounds and was tired all the time, no matter how much he slept. His weight plummetted to 155 pounds.

“Whenever I exerted myself, it felt like I was going to faint,” he said. “We never really figured out what was wrong with me. That’s still the scary part.”

All this started when Briggs was playing baseball for the University of Delaware in 2014.

Doctors couldn’t seem to pinpoint what was wrong with him. He spent time at both Kent General and the University of Pennsylvania hospital.
Finally, gradually, Briggs just started getting better.

After doctors cleared him to start playing again, he ended up with Delaware Tech-Owens’ program in Georgetown last spring.

But Briggs wasn’t the same player he used to be.

“I remember, our first practice, simply fielding groundballs and throwing across the diamond,” he said. “I was getting winded just from doing something simple like that. Or just swinging the bat in a BP setting. … it’s still an adjustment period now.”

After also spending some time at Wilmington University in the fall, Briggs texted Wesley coach Bret Underwood over the winter to say he might go to school there.

Underwood was interested. Briggs is not only an experienced pitcher but a good hitter as well.

“I think he’s just kind of been beat down with this sickness,” said Underwood. “Now that he’s back into it, he’s making tremendous strides every day, getting back to where he was.

“You can see how much he enjoys being out here. He seems happy, he really does. I think he can be a great contributor for us. He still does have some limitations from his illness with doing stuff for long amounts of time.

“He’s only a sophomore on the field so hopefully we have three years of him really contributing here.”

For now, the Wolverines are going to take it slow with Briggs. He does have a save but has only seen limited action so far.

Briggs isn’t complaining. He’s been through a lot worse than sitting on the bench.

Even when he does basic things now, Briggs finds himself saying, “I wasn’t able to do this like a year and a half ago.

“I definitely cherish just being able to do the little things now,” he said. “If I’m struggling, I’m like, ‘Hey, at least I’m able to play again.’ I definitely have a different outlook on the game now.”

While he’s still working on getting all his baseball skills back, a batting cage or a pitcher’s mound is still home for Briggs.

He’s back where he belongs.

“It (playing baseball) is what I’ve been doing since I was like four or five,” said the former Camden-Wyoming Little League standout. “The love for the game kept me going.

“Definitely, if I can play it, I’m going to play it as long as I can. I wasn’t going to let that (illness) stop me from playing.”

Odds & ends

•Wesley College quarterback Joe Callahan is slated to take part in the University of Delaware’s Pro Day on Tuesday, working out for pro scouts.

The Gagliardi Trophy winner has been working with former NFL QB Jay Fiedler in preparation.

•Dover High may get a new head football coach on Wednesday when the Capital School Board holds its March meeting.

The board offered the job to Jamie Duncan last month but was turned down by the former NFL linebacker, who is a volunteer coach at Tatnall. His son is a sophomore at the school.

•Three members of Smyrna High’s Division I state championship team are planning to continue their playing careers in college.

That group includes offensive lineman Jeff Campbell (Delaware State), defensive back Rodney Ruff (Wesley) and receiver Brandon Bishop (Frostburg State).

•Former Delaware center Gino Gradkowski was signed by the Carolina Panthers this week. Gradkowski, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, played with Atlanta last year.

“It just looked like a bunch of guys having fun playing football, and winning. That’s what excited me the most about coming here,” Gradkowski said about joining the Panthers. “I like where this team is heading. I like where it’s been the last few years. I’m looking forward to where we go.”

•The Philadelphia Eagles won’t be playing their usual exhibition basketball game during the Blue-Gold All-Star Basketball Games next Saturday.

Instead, the Blue-Gold sponsor squad will face Future and the Streetball Allstars after the girls’ all-star game. The first contest tips off at 1:30 p.m. at the Carpenter Center in Newark.

Go to www.bestbuddiesdelaware.org for tickets and information.

•Dover High track & field coach Jim Solomon is still proud that he still holds the DIAA boys’ basketball state tournament record of 18 field goals in a game.

Solomon accomplished the feat against Salesianum in 1973.

•Former William Penn High wrestling coach Jack Holloway, now the Tower Hill athletic director, has been selected to the National High School Hall of Fame. He led the Colonials to seven state championships and 13 undefeated seasons during his 25-year career.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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