Luke Holko and his buddies wanted to move to some open seats closer to the dugout in the latter stages of this year’s “Luke Holko Day” game with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
It’s one game almost every year the team holds in his honor to celebrate his recovery and continued good health following a horrific accident in 2009 when he was hit in the head with a foul ball.
Luke wasn’t happy when his parents hesitated to allow him to move seats. Certainly he’d understand the worst-case-scenario that played in their minds at that moment, they figured.
“He got upset, and then I thought ‘It’s the last inning of the game, what are the odds this would happen again?’ and I finally said it was alright,” his mother, Nicole Holko, said.
Nicole and Chad Holko, his father, set clear instructions with the boys to stay behind the netting and pay attention to the hitter at all times.
Such is life with the Holkos nine years now post-accident. While they try to allow their son to live a normal teenage life, they can’t help but be constantly reminded of what happened when he was 4.
Luke was life-flighted to Akron Children’s pediatric intensive care to be treated for a skull fracture and related complications. He spent four weeks in a medically induced coma, followed by intensive therapy as Luke slowly regained his speech and motor skills.
The Holkos, of Greene Township north of Warren, first shared their story during the Miracles and Promises Radiothon a few years after Beeghly campus in Boardman opened in 2008. Now as the campus marks its 10-year anniversary in 2018 we’re revisiting Luke to learn what he’s been up to.
This year’s Radiothon takes place Sept. 27-28 from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day, and will be broadcast live on Mix 98.9 and 570 WKBN from the hospital’s Beeghly campus in Boardman.
Today, in addition to being advocates for spectator safety at ballparks, the Holkos are busy cherishing every moment watching Luke grow and mature into a fine young man.
This fall, the now-13-year-old started seventh grade at Maplewood Local Schools. He plays basketball for his school team, and his summer baseball team played in the championship game this year.
He also enjoys reading, playing video games with his friends, and riding go-carts and four-wheelers.
“For a 13-year-old he’s very conservative,” his dad said about his driving skills. “He drives like his mom, which is a good thing, and I’m thankful for that.”
Healthwise from the injury, he’s doing great, his parents said. He’s down to four visits per year to Akron Children’s for injections in his leg to treat a drop foot condition caused by nerve damage from the accident. He’s also permanently deaf in one ear.
Aside from being advised not to play contact sports like football, he’s not restricted from other activities.
The Holkos remain humbled and appreciative for all the prayers, encouragement and financial support they received from the community – and beyond – after the accident happened.
“There’s no way to reach all of them, so our biggest message is thank you, and we just hope that people can learn from him.” Nicole said.
The family remains in regular contact with the player who hit the foul ball, Ben Carlson, who’s since become a family friend who they visit in-person at least once a year. Carlson lives in Kentucky with his wife and four children after leaving baseball and starting a career in the ministry.
In recent years, Major League Baseball has mandated that minor league teams extend the safety netting at ballparks to protect a greater number of spectators from foul balls. It’s a measure that stems, at least in some small part, say the Holkos, from a letter Rep. Tim Ryan sent to the MLB commissioner that referenced Luke’s story in it.