Centimeters determined if Bryce Contreras would be the subject of this story or a much darker, sadder one.
Standing in the dugout with his Robert E. Lee baseball teammates at Friendswood High School last March 29, Contreras, then a junior, took a foul ball line drive off his head.
“We were told if the ball had hit him a half-an-inch higher it would have killed him instantly,” Bryce’s mother Melissa Contreras said. “He was lucky to be alive.”
Bryce suffered a subdural hematoma, a severe concussion, and a hole in 10 percent of his eardrum.
Luckily, there was no residual damage and the injury healed on its own.
The ball, hit by a Gander teammate, took Contreras by his left temple and ear and knocked him out.
“I just remember the crack of the bat when he hit it and waking up on the ground,” Bryce said.
His mother didn’t realize at first her son had taken the brunt of the blast.
“I was not paying a whole lot of attention – I knew we were batting – but I was having a conversation with Bryce’s best friend,” Melissa said. “You hear that sharp intake of air when something happens. I didn’t see it, I heard it.
The initial talk was another player had taken the damage from the hit, but then realization set in.
“Bryce’s best friend turned and looked at me and said, ‘it’s Bryce,’” Melissa said. “I said ‘no,’ then one of the moms looked at me and said, ‘it’s Bryce.’
“My stomach just dropped.”
Friendswood trainers thought he would be OK and suffered a concussion. Emergency services weren’t called.
“He was talking, he was alert and was answering all questions,” Melissa said. “We were on the way to get checked out and he started vomitting.”
At the Clear Lake ER the doctor told them that Bryce had a brain bleed and he was off to Texas Children’s Hospital.
“My head hurt and all I thought was ‘‘would I be out for the season,’” he said. “After we got the brain scan I got nervous.”
Melissa said her son’s concerns were heightened toward his teammates and coaches who were in shock after the incident. During his three days in intensive care, many members of the Ganders program came to see Bryce through the ordeal.
“When a ball hits human skin it makes one of the most disgusting noises and when Bryce got hit, my stomach just turned,” REL head baseball coach David Schmidt said. “I am really amazed to this day that he is alive. In 29 years of coaching baseball, this is worst thing I have ever witnessed.
“Bryce is a great kid and has worked really hard to get in baseball shape. We are looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish starting Jan. 31. It’s obvious the good Lord isn’t done working with Bryce yet.”
After sitting out the 2019 season to recover, Bryce immediately got back on the diamond with summer ball.
“I wanted to move on and it felt good to play again,” Bryce said. “I was angry that I couldn’t be on the baseball field and couldn’t finish the season. So I was overwhelmed with joy because I started to do things again. I was the happiest kid in the world.”
Now, Contreras is ready to go and attack a new season with vigor and a sense of fortune.
He will do it while dealing with side effects from the injury, which include anxiety and depression, especially when he and/or his brain is tired.
Bryce says it’s essentially a heightened response to emotional and stressful scenarios.
“He is having more good days than bad days now,” Melissa said.
The concerns remain of a potential new concussion that could lead to potential, future problems.
But Bryce iisn’t worried heading forward as a REL outfielder playing his last season for his school.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “It’s a part of the sport.”