April 9, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Perseverance and commitment are words Cole Vaughan lives by every day.
Through family tragedies, injuries, and life-changing diseases, Vaughan has used sports as an escape and a way to reinvigorate himself to face the challenges that life has thrown at him.
On Wednesday, the Heritage Academy senior baseball standout realized a dream and continued the family tradition all in one act when he signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at East Mississippi Community College.
Vaughan''s father, David, played baseball for two years at EMCC and then went on to play baseball at Samford University.
David Vaughan died of leukemia when his son was almost 2 years old, and Cole said Wednesday the fact that his father played baseball at EMCC was a key reason he elected to go to school in Scooba.
"I have been working on it for four years and (getting an opportunity to earn a scholarship to EMCC) is everything," Vaughan said. "You always have to work hard, even when you are down. You always have to fight through it. It has been a lot, but you have to fight."
In addition to overcoming the death of his father, Vaughan has battled knee injuries and plays with Type I juvenile diabetes.
Diabetes is a syndrome of disordered metabolism, usually due to a combination of hereditary and environmental causes, resulting in abnormally high blood sugar levels. Diabetes mellitus refers to the group of diseases that lead to high blood glucose levels due to defects in insulin secretion or insulin action in the body.
Vaughan learned he had diabetes five months after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee. That injury nearly ended Vaughan''s baseball career.
Vaughan remembers doctors telling him they thought he had torn everything in his knee and that his baseball career was over. He was only in the eighth grade, but even then he said he knew to keep fighting, training, and working hard to battle back.
Then, just when he thought he had a clean bill of health, he discovered another obstacle in his way.
"I just got off my crutches and it was about five months after my surgery," Vaughan said. "(Learning he had juvenile diabetes) was a big one, but you just have to keep fighting through it.
"I had no clue. I was rushed to the hospital and I was like, ''Diabetes? You can get rushed to the hospital for diabetes?'' I didn''t know anything. I wasn''t prepared for that at all."
Vaughan said the regimen of taking five shots a day and having an insulin pump to help regulate his blood sugar can be trying, but he said it has helped make him stronger to face challenges.
Heritage Academy first-year baseball coach Steve Hancock said Vaughan has been a shining example for his teammates.
"Cole is one of the best workers I have been around," Hancock said. "He takes a lot of pride in what he is doing, and he is a fine defensive first baseman."
Vaughan is hitting .420 this season with a .742 slugging percentage, two home runs, five doubles and 12 RBIs in 11 games. He has struck out only four times in 31 at-bats.
He has a 2-3 record with a 2.96 ERA as the team''s No. 1 pitcher.
Hancock feels Vaughan, who also plays first base, projects as a corner outfielder in college. He said Vaughan has a good enough arm and a good enough bat to contribute at the next level.
"He has been a joy to coach," Hancock said. "He is real even-keeled. He doesn''t press. He does a nice job bouncing back from adversity and doesn''t bury his head in the sand when things go bad."
EMCC coach Tony Montgomery, who signed West Point High School standout Demontez Calvert earlier Wednesday, learned of Vaughan from Hancock and Cole''s cousin, Drew, who is a freshman on the EMCC baseball team. He said he liked what he heard and what he saw from everyone who knew Vaughan.
"I saw some really good things in him," Montgomery said. "He is going to get better on the mound as he grows up. Right now he swings the bat better than some guys on my team. I feel confident he is going to be a dual player for us. Before it is over, he might end up hitting more than he pitches."
Melina Vaughan, Cole''s mother, said her son has made his father very proud and that she considers Cole her hero. She said he is an inspiration to her.
And while excited about realizing an opportunity to play sports in college, Vaughan said Wednesday is just another beginning.
"Hopefully I am ready for it," Vaughan said. "I just have to stick with it. I can''t stop working hard now that I have signed. I have to keep working."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.