Kincaid having a ball
HUNTINGTON -- On Feb. 24, West Virginia State coach Cal Bailey summoned a freshman relief pitcher from the dugout to go warm up and head onto the mound.
It was something Bailey has done numerous times throughout his illustrious career, but this one was a bit different.
The freshman reliever he summoned was former Winfield pitcher Dusty Kincaid, who pitched to four batters before earning the save in a 2-1 win.
The win set off a wild celebration -- led by Bailey, according to Kincaid.
"I've never seen someone congratulate a player like what he congratulated me after that game," Kincaid said. "He was just as excited for me as what I was for myself and my family was."
Bailey's celebration wasn't because of the win.
It was because that marked the first live game Kincaid had pitched in since being struck in the head by a line drive in the second game of his senior year against Huntington High.
The date? March 19, 2012.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of an accident that changed his life and the lives of many around him.
Shari Kincaid, Dusty's mother, will never forget watching her youngest son lay on the field for several minutes, then sitting in the hospital over the next few days wondering what his future held.
Now that it holds baseball, she admits it hasn't been easy. However, she's just happy to see a smile on her son's face again.
"He's doing what he loves," Shari Kincaid said. "It's a blessing and as long as he wants to play, we'll be there to support him -- fear and all."
To this day, Kincaid has trouble remembering the play in which he was struck in the head.
What he does remember is what happened afterward.
The hospital, the scar on his head and most importantly, the ones who rallied around him to offer their support in his time of need.
"What I remember the most is how close my family came and all the support from everybody," Kincaid said. "That right there lifted me up a lot. All I could think about then was my senior year and how early it was that I got hit.
"That was the worst -- sitting in the hospital and thinking I had lost the rest of my senior year and it had just started."
In the time following the accident, Kincaid went through the struggles that anyone who had gone through a traumatic injury would face.
There was therapy. There was the anxiety associated with trying to get back on the field. There was the realization that he might never walk back out onto the mound for a baseball game.
Even though he had several scholarship offers on the table, the latter was something Kincaid had almost accepted as his path.
"I was set on not coming back and playing, but with all that support and how quickly I was able to get back, I wanted to prove everyone wrong and get back out there," Kincaid said.
Everything fell in line for Kincaid on Aug. 29 when doctors released him to resume full baseball activity.
It could not have been more perfect timing.
"The day I got released was luckily the day that fall ball started for State," Kincaid recalled. "I pitched a couple of days after I was released. The first time I got out on the mound, it was all I could think about. After that first pitch, it was back to normal and I was doing what I love."
Not only was Kincaid back on the baseball field, he was out there with his brother Tyler, who had also missed the 2012 season after Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow.
Tyler is now back out on the field as well, platooning at shortstop for the Yellow Jackets.
Dusty Kincaid said he couldn't be happier than to be playing with his brother again -- just as they had at Winfield.
"I couldn't ask for a better brother than what I have," Kincaid said. "For what I went through, he was a rock for me with everything. That's why I chose State. I had scholarship offers from other places, but I knew from what my bro went through and what he said about State, that's where I wanted to go -- to play with him and for Cal Bailey."
Throughout fall ball and even into winter, things went along just like a normal baseball offseason for the Kincaids.
They worked out together, went through strength training together and spoke of the upcoming season.
It was almost back to normal.
That is, until Bailey looked Dusty in the eyes and told him to warm up on Feb. 24.
West Virginia State had just gotten back-to-back home runs to take a 2-1 lead heading to the final inning. The only thing standing between Notre Dame and a sweep of West Virginia State was Kincaid and three outs.
"My heart started pounding and I thought I was going to pass out when I ran out to the mound," Kincaid said. "I knew what I had to do, but that's when it hit me that this is my first game back and it's a lot of pressure. That's the most nervous I've ever been on the mound."
For Kincaid, it's been a case of the more things changed for him, the more they stayed the same.
Yes, he's back on the field playing baseball, but there's a greater appreciation for the game now since it was nearly taken from him one year ago. He still has an everyday reminder of the life-changing event -- a scar received after swelling forced an emergency surgical procedure to relieve pressure and fluid from his brain.
The scar is barely noticeable to most and Kincaid said people have even asked him if he knows the kid who got hit by the line drive.
"I've been places where I've told them where I'm from and that I play baseball and they'll ask if I've heard about the kid that got hit from there," Kincaid said. "I'll go along with the story and as it draws to a close, I'll let them know it was me. Then I have to prove it by showing them the scar and pictures."
On Tuesday afternoon, Kincaid and the Yellow Jackets take Cal Bailey Field for a 2 p.m. game against Fairmont State.
And even though weather threatens the game being played, nothing can dampen Kincaid's mood this week because things are how they should be.
It's baseball season, and Kincaid is having a ball.