Nashville, N.C. — A Nash County middle school student is stepping back onto the baseball diamond about a year and a half after a wild pitch nearly killed him.
Lee Winstead was hit in the head with a baseball during pre-game warm-ups in September 2011. Doctors had to perform emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage.
Less than four months later, he returned to school.
Now, as the Nash Central Middle School baseball team prepares for its first game of the season on Thursday, Lee is playing harder than ever before.
"He worked hard at overcoming all of his obstacles. He worked hard at rehab," said his mother, Lori Winstead. "I think he's proving to himself, 'I'm still normal, just like before.'"
Coach Mark Wooten said Lee is an asset to the team.
"He's got good hands at second base," Wooten said. "I think that's his No. 1 strength."
Strength is definitely a word Lee's family uses to describe him.
"He's a whole lot stronger than I thought he would be," said his father.
The family is ready to cheer him on this season, though Lori Winstead admits she's a bit nervous.
"It's, for me, very scary," she said. "The closer it gets, the more panicked I get."
But Lee is determined to have a new beginning.
"(He wants) closure to all the bad stuff, 'I've done it. I've overcome it. Here I am now,'" his mother said.
Lee will wear a protective helmet during Thursday's game.