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Tigers' Nation has new outlook after health scare

 

Adairsville High junior Noah Nation has a perspective on life well beyond his years.

Most of the time that only comes from experiencing the kind of things that force high school kids to grow up in a hurry. For Nation, it came in the form of two weeks spent in the hospital and a month and a half with a feeding tube.

Right after baseball tryouts in late January, Nation was admitted to Scottish Rite — a children’s hospital in Atlanta — and diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

“It was definitely hard for me seeing my teammates play and me be stuck in the hospital not being able to do anything,” Nation said. “They supported me through it and talked to me, and it was very helpful.”

A type of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease can target any area along the digestive system. For Nation, it targeted the small intestine, which could have necessitated surgery to remove a portion of the intestine.

However, Nation avoided that scenario and was allowed to return to school and to the Tigers baseball team in mid-February.

With his feeding tube still inserted in his nostril and his physical conditioning not up to the level of his teammates, Nation found it difficult to work his way back into meaningful action on the diamond.

“Just my physical health, like jogging, just stuff that would be daily for me before I went to the hospital was a lot bigger struggle than it was before,” Nation said.

He did manage to pitch in a JV game while still on his feeding tube.

“I stuffed it up in my hat,” Nation said. “It was still hanging, but it went up in my hat like that.

“It was something else.”

Since having the feeding tube removed, Nation has finally started to see some varsity action.

On April 5, he made his pitching debut against the No. 1 team in Class 3A, tossing two scoreless frames, including one hit, one walk and two strikeouts, out of the bullpen at Ringgold.

His first plate appearance came two days later versus North Murray. Even though Nation struck out in that at bat, his coach Billy Roper was glad he got the opportunity.

“He’s been dealing with coming back from the illness,” Roper said. “It’s good to just kind of get him in.”

It’s clearly a delicate balance for coach and player.

Roper clearly wants Nation’s health to be the top priority. Nation feels the same, but he would also love to be out there as much as possible.

Given that Nation is a junior on a senior-laden team in the thick of the playoff hunt, he seems to have come to terms with his limitations this season.

He also seems to have a newfound appreciation for the game.

“It feels a lot better than it did before I was in the hospital,” Nation said. “It’s just making me humble and appreciate it a lot more than I was.”

Meanwhile, Roper sees Nation as an embodiment of the team-first approach he’s constantly preaching to his players.

“It’s big team, little me. That’s kind of what we talk about,” Roper said. “He loves the game. He wants to be a part of the team. We were texting back and forth when he was in the hospital. He just wanted to get back with his team. I’m like, ‘Noah, just get well. We’ll get it.’ He just wants to be here with us.”

And now that he has rejoined the Tigers, Nation is using his changed perspective to take advantage of every opportunity he gets — no matter how few or far between they may be.

That’s because he knows what it’s like to be completely removed from baseball, school and his friends. He also understands it could all be gone in the blink of an eye, so he’s not about to take any of it for granted again.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun,” Nation said. “Taking my friends for granted and not hanging out with them as much, I realized a new outlook on life: I’m not going to be around forever. It really scared me, put fear in my eyes and [made me] realize I need to enjoy life more than I was and take advantage of it."

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