"Baseball has been a part of who I am and who I've always been. Ever since I was 4 years old I've wanted to play professional baseball," says Hayland Hardy. "Home Run Hardy," was his nick-name. Hayland Hardy, home run record holder at Stephen F. Austin University and free agent player for the Milwaukee Brewers organization. "And I went to professional baseball but God's plan wasn't my plan."
Hayland's plans changed on the way to the ballpark one day eight years ago. Hayland had always suffered from asthma, but on this day he and his family would learn just how deadly his disease really was.
"He put his hands near his throat and said I can't breath and I knew he couldn't," remembers Hayland's wife Crickett Hardy, "and I didn't hesitate, I headed straight for the hospital and that was the first real problem and a chain of events followed."
That day in the hospital, Hayland almost died. His asthma was much worse than anyone knew. A rare-deadly form, that caused and continues to cause tumors to grow in his throat and nasal cavities. And on the very day he almost lost his life, he lost his dream. While at the hospital, Crickett learned the Brewers cut him from the roster.
Hayland had never shied away from his Christian beliefs, but now he had to find strength in something beyond athletics. "I had a time that, unless I was reading scripture I really couldn't handle life at the time," says Hayland. "I went through major depression when I didn't think I was going to live for very long. I was thinking about my kids. "Finally one day God just gave me a lot of strength and I always had been a fighter, since I was a little boy just fighting things, somebody that just worked hard and I said I was just gonna fight this thing all the way to the end and I'm just going to represent the Lord all the way to the end and whatever happens I know the outcome."
Hayland has four daughters now. 12 surgeries, numerous chemo and drug treatments later doctors have managed to slow the asthmatic condition that almost took his life. But they can give no guarantee as to what tomorrow might bring.
Hayland is still involved in baseball. He's the head coach for Mineola's High School team. He also spends a lot time sharing his testimony and working with youth groups and churches. While his dream of a professional baseball career is over, the Hardy's know now that it was a failed baseball career God intended use all along.
"I believe because of professional baseball people will listen to me more than if I hadn't of played and I can get in and tell my testimony and I think that was the whole plan and I understand that now," says Hayland.
"I had a lot of anger, especially at God," says Crickett, "and I'm ashamed to admit that but I did. But something I learned when Hayland got sick. Hayland is my gift from God and its eternal...and I know that's where my hope lies we have that promise."
"I still pray for healing and I'm ready. But I just want His will to be done where I can be an influence on Him because who knows I might not be the same influence if I got healed I might want to start to go out there and play ball again. Right now I'm just looking for people to witness too. "Whenever I'm talking to anybody I'm just a word of encouragement, hey get out there and be a witness, no matter what your situation is, just pick your cross up and go the best you can."