Pittsfield’s Bedell, Stockman overcome health conditions to flourish on field

  • Devin Bedell rounds third base and looks home during the Division IV semifinals between Pittsfield and Newmarket at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia on June 6, 2018. Rich Miyara/ NHSportsPhotography.com

  • Pittsfield's Kyle Stockman (3) offers a high five to Cam Darrah (1) after Darrah scores in the sixth inning during Friday's baseball game at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester on May 4, 2018. Pittsfield defeated Hopkinton, 11-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Devin Bedell takes a throw at second base during Pittsfield’s 11-4 win over Hopkinton this spring at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 6/21/2018 12:11:13 AM

Devin Bedell believed 2018 could be a special season for the Pittsfield baseball team.

“I knew we were going to be one of the top teams,” he said.

What he didn’t know was whether he would be on the team.

On the evening of Dec. 3, 2017, Bedell returned home from basketball practice and stretched out on his family’s couch, eventually slipping into a nap. When he awoke, he saw paramedics in his living room.

Bedell didn’t know it yet, but he had suffered a grand mal seizure while he slept.

A visit to the emergency room led to a trip to Boston Children’s Hospital, where Bedell was diagnosed with a cerebral cavernous malformation. In simpler terms, his brain was bleeding. Surgery was scheduled for Jan. 17.

Four months later, he was back on the diamond.

“If you didn’t see the scar on the side of his head you never would have known anything had happened,” Pittsfield coach Rob Stockman said. “It’s really a miracle.”

“He blew me away with how he progressed,” said teammate Kyle Stockman. “He was all still there. He helped us out a ton this year and never once used it as an excuse.”

Stockman knows something about playing sports with a health condition. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a child and has learned to balance his blood sugar while managing the adrenaline that comes with playing the game.

Stockman and Bedell, both juniors, did more than just cope with their health issues. They thrived with them. Both were D-IV First Team selections, Stockman was the D-IV Player of the Year and they helped the Panthers to a 16-2 record and a second-straight trip to the semifinals.

‘It was a normal day’

Bedell can’t remember much from the night of his seizure. His mother, Megan, remembers it clearly.

“It was just a normal day,” she said. “He didn’t say he had a headache or anything like that. He came home from basketball and was taking a nap, and suddenly he was having a seizure.”

A grand mal seizure causes violent muscle contractions and loss of consciousness. The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center based in Minnesota, describes it as, “the type of seizure most people picture when they think about seizures.”

The next several hours were filled with uncertainty for Bedell and his family. He was taken to Concord Hospital and underwent a brain scan, but the cause was still unclear. A brain tumor, and therefore cancer, were among the possibilities.

Bedell was referred to Children’s Hospital in Boston, where he diagnosed the cavernous malformation. After learning that it was not cancer, the next bit of relief for Bedell and his family came when their doctor declared emergency surgery unnecessary.

After the surgery was scheduled, Bedell was disappointed that his junior basketball season ended before it began.

Pittsfield went on to win the Division IV title and Bedell was there for the ride, supporting his team. Along the way, Bedell and his family received fundraising support from other teams in the division. Overnight stays in Boston for doctor’s visits were becoming more common and the support helped alleviate some of those expenses.

While Bedell was proud to see his teammates win on the court, he wanted to contribute directly from the field when baseball season came around.

“One of my top priorities was to be ready for baseball,” Bedell said.

That priority was possible in theory, but it seemed unlikely. Bedell, a year-round baseball player who hopes to continue his career in college, couldn’t train in the offseason. A walk outside was the most physical activity his doctor allowed.

“It was definitely up in the air in the winter,” coach Stockman said. “We weren’t sure if he was going to be able to get back until his appointment with the doctor to evaluate everything.”

That appointment at the end of March turned the unlikely into possible. Doctors cleared Bedell to participate in cardio drills and strength training.

He passed those tests and eventually worked his way back onto the field. Bedell had to keep his head extra safe, so he wore a batting helmet with a faceguard and added protection under his cap. the extra gear did not slow down Bedell – he hit .490 with three home runs and 29 RBI.

“The team was overall very supportive and I knew brain surgery wasn’t going to get in the way,” he said. “It was an incredible feeling. … I was kind of nervous (before my first game back), but once that first pitch was thrown I knew I was ready.”

The daily routine

While Bedell battled a condition that crashed into his life months ago, Kyle Stockman has spent years learning to live with Type 1 Diabetes while excelling on the field.

Diagnosed at the age of 7, Stockman has to monitor his blood sugar level all day, every day.

When he was younger, this involved taking multiple insulin shots a day. As his participation in sports grew, he had to learn how to manage his body at the same time.

“Back then, they didn’t know about it as much, so I’d explain it a little bit,” he said. “I’d tell (the coach), if my sugar gets low, I need to come off the field. If it’s too high, I’m agitated.”

Stockman says that sometimes it was uncomfortable when he played youth sports and had to come off the field for an injection.

“When I was younger I was always embarrassed about bringing out a needle and stabbing myself or the whole pump thing and doing it in front of everybody because you’re the different kid around,” he said. “But now, everyone knows that I have diabetes and they know it’s a daily drill.”

As time passed and technology evolved, Stockman replaced the needles with an insulin pump that sticks to his left arm. He has another patch on that arm called a Dexcom that monitors glucose levels. This device is linked to a cellphone app, which sends an alert when his sugar levels are too high or too low. His mother, Candi, will often monitor this while Kyle is on the field and focused on the game.

While the method of managing diabetes has changed, the extra attention Stockman has to give his diet and how physical activity affects him is more than most ballplayers have to consider.

Sometimes he can sense when there is an imbalance by how he is seeing and feeling on the field.

“When I’m pitching, hitting or fielding, someone might throw me a ball and I’ll just see it slower, or it will hit off my glove,” Stockman said. “When that happens, I know I’ve got to go check because something is not right.”

Like Bedell, Stockman hopes to play at the college level, and he’s surrounded himself with role models who are helping him reach that goal. Among them are Bow graduate Evan Vulgamore, now playing at Quinnipiac University, and Merrimack Valley alumnus David Drouin, who played at Hartford.

“My dad is always telling me to look at those guys like Dave and Evan; they’re built, they’re strong, they’re there for a reason, they’re there because they’re putting the work in in the offseason,” he said. “If you want to get to the next level, you need to get to their level.”

One more shot

Pittsfield will have its top two pitchers back next year with Stockman and Bedell in their senior seasons. Their production at the plate will also provide a strong foundation for the Panthers’ lineup. Stockman enjoyed a career season this spring, hitting .560 with 31 runs, 21 RBI and 27 stolen bags. On the mound, he was 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA and threw a no-hitter.

His Player of the Year honor was nice, he said, but it was bittersweet without a title to go with it.

“It was an awesome achievement, but I was telling my dad that it didn’t mean anything unless we won a state championship,” Kyle said. “That was my goal, because what good is it if one guy feels good and the rest of his teammates are left behind?”

Pittsfield will be a favorite to claim that championship in 2019. There will challenges, but Stockman and Bedell know all about clearing those.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)




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