Exactly one month ago, in the fifth inning of a minor-league baseball game in Birmingham, Alabama, former Broward Community College star Christian Marrero stepped into the batters box and looked to the mound, where lefty Darin Downs was getting the signals from his catcher. Downs played at Santaluces High School in Lantana, rated Palm Beach County's best prospect in 2003, when he was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Cubs.
He hurled the ball at the plate. Marrero hit it square, right back to the mound, so fast that Downs could only turn his head, not duck. The line drive struck him over the left ear. He went down. Somehow, he managed to stagger to the dugout. He remembered his fiancee being there. The ball had fractured his skull. Downs, who's 24, spent the next two days in an intensive-care unit.
The Montgomery Advisor tells of how Downs had to relearn speech and how, with his fiancee as coach, they started with the sentence "I do."
Yesterday, he was released from an Alabama hospital and is now recovering at his family's home in West Palm Beach. Incredibly, he's expected to make a full recovery and to be back on the mound next year, where he'll resume his efforts to pitch for the parent club, the Tampa Rays.
Marrero, who's in the Chicago White Sox organization, is a cousin of Deven Marrero, the shortstop who last year was a senior at American Heritage in Davie and was selected in the 17th round of this past year's draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
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Downs' wedding, planned for November, is still on schedule.