By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
Since his arrival to Baylor University in 2015, head baseball coach Steve Rodriguez’s biggest goal has been to shape the lives of his players through more than just baseball. One way Rodriguez and his staff have attempted to achieve that goal is by continuing Baylor baseball’s partnership with the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, which began in 2012.
“I tell a lot of people this — you can win a lot of things, and it doesn’t always have to be on the field all the time,” Rodriguez said.
On Friday, the Bears hosted 15-year-old Tyler Credeur, a burn survivor who said the Shriner’s Hospital in Galveston saved him after a tragic bonfire accident in November 2018.
Credeur and his family were spending Thanksgiving with his grandmother in Texarkana, Ark. last year, and in trying to rekindle a bonfire, he grabbed the wrong can of fuel and had to be rushed to the hospital with third-degree burns.
“At first it was surgery after surgery,” Credeur said. “I’ve had 16 surgeries, and I’m coming up on my 17th… It’s a lot, but it’s worth it because I’ve got family and friends who can help support me.”
When he went into his 17th surgery Monday, Credeur had a new set of friends rooting for him — Baylor Bears. Sophomore outfielder Ryan Bertelsman said the team is always excited to meet the kids form the hospital and to have them spend time at the ballpark.
“It’s one of those things where you get to meet them, and we know how easily we take things for granted,” Bertelsman said. “Whenever we get to hear their stories and hear their perspectives on things, it really just opens our eyes and helps us be thankful and more joyful every day.”
During the visit, Credeur and his family were given a tour of Baylor’s athletic facilities and were able to spend time with the baseball players during one of their fall practices. Rodriguez also gifted Credeur with a Marucci bat that has his name engraved on it. Credeur’s mother, Rachel Jones, said they were grateful for the opportunities that Shriner’s has allowed them to have and wants to share the message about the work they do.
“This is amazing,” Jones said. “It’s a great opportunity for him, and he gets to see all these amazing athletes…We’re so thankful for the chance he’s been given and all the opportunities that he’s been able to have so he can continue having a normal life.”
After his accident, Credeur spent three months at the Shriner’s Hospital. Through his recovery, he had to relearn how to walk, how to eat and even how to use the restroom. But now, almost a year later, he’s almost returned to a completely normal teenage life — going to school, working as the manager for his high school varsity football team, trying out for basketball and even taking a date to the homecoming dance, which he said was “overwhelming.”
Credeur was resilient, and Shriner’s made the transition easier by covering the expenses of his recovery through nonprofit programs at its hospitals. Dustin Johnson, who has helped Credeur and his family throughout their time at the hospital, said its Shriner’s mission to provide quality care without the financial stress.
“For almost a hundred years now, we’ve been really proud of the fact that over the course of our history we’ve provided our care regardless of the family’s ability to pay,” Johnson said. “That’s a central part of what we do, and we don’t ever want to change that.”
In March, Baylor baseball made a trip to the Shriner’s Hospital in Houston to visit the kids at the hospital before competing in the College Classic at Minute Maid Park, which is sponsored by Shriner’s. The Bears will return to Houston again in February and team up with Credeur for the 2020 College Classic.
Rodriguez said he believes Shriner’s values and Baylor’s values align, and the experience allows his team to “have servant’s hearts” on and off the field.
“I guess the big thing for me is when you see young kids and some of the things they go through,” Rodriguez said. “It changes the trajectory of their life; I think the only thing you can do is be able to provide some happiness and some joy with them and let them know they’re going to be loved and be cared for — they’ve got a whole group of guys here who are going to be on their side.”
So, when Rodriguez’s team is hustling after a ball under the hot Texas sun in late spring or taking batting practice during the cold and dreary months of the offseason, they’ll remember the things that really matter are not just in the winning and losing of baseball but in the perseverance of life.
“If I can go through this — surviving 90% burns, 85% third-degree and stuff — don’t give up on what you think you can do,” Tyler Credeur said. “Perseverance is my word.”