Jablonski: 'It's really a dream come true'

BY foxsports • September 24, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — It's been nine months since Minnesota high schooler Jack Jablonski suffered a hockey injury that left him paralyzed. Since his injury, which took place during a Benilde-St. Margaret's junior varsity game, Jablonski has been honored at various events in the Twin Cities. He was invited to do the "Let's play hockey!" call at a Minnesota Wild game and blew the ceremonial Gjallarhorn before a Minnesota Vikings game.

On Monday, Jablonski was at Target Field to throw out the first pitch before a game between the Minnesota Twins and the visiting New York Yankees.

"Obviously, I'm nervous for it, but hopefully I don't mess it up," Jablonski said as the Twins took batting practice before the game. "Definitely I guess you can check that one off the bucket list or something. It's really a dream come true."

Last December, Jablonski was checked from behind while going for a puck in the corner during a BSM hockey game. He instantly crumpled to the ice and couldn't move. It was later revealed that his spinal cord was severed, and doctors told Jablonski he would never walk again.

But he's continued to make progress and has served as an inspiration for many. He is currently one of two finalists for the Courage in Sports Award, which will be announced live on CBS Sports on Nov. 11.

Among those who have been inspired by Jablonski's story are the Minnesota Twins. As Jablonski and his family watched batting practice in Target Field, he was greeted by several Twins players as well as manager Ron Gardenhire.

"Pretty cool he's out here. A positive kid," said Gardenhire, who met Jablonski for the first time Monday. "Everything I've read about him and everything I've seen, he's uplifting, to say the least."

Among the players who came to say hello to Jablonski was Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau, who visited Jablonski in the hospital a few months after his injury. Morneau, a big hockey fan, signed hats for Jablonski and his younger brother, Max, as well as a baseball bat. And Morneau was behind the plate as Jablonski delivered the first pitch before the game. The Minnesota Twins Wives Organization, who presented a $10,000 check for the Jack Jablonski Fund, joined Jablonski in front of the Target Field pitcher's mound.

Since Morneau last saw Jablonski, the Benilde-St. Margaret's junior has made tremendous strides in his physical rehabilitation. As recently as two weeks ago, Jablonski stood with assistance for over 20 minutes.

"I was actually hitting a beach ball and just hitting it around and having some fun," Jablonski said Monday. "That's probably the latest accomplishment, which is a really big deal just because I was able to keep my balance and stay up and catch myself."

It's a long way from where Jablonski was shortly after his injury. Doctors told him he likely would never regain function in his arms again, but he now is able to move his arms and earlier this year had slight movement in his ankle. Jablonski still maintains that his ultimate goal is to one day skate again.

An avid Minnesota Wild fan, Jablonski recently used his Twitter account to make a plea with the National Hockey League, which is currently experiencing a lockout. Jablonski tweeted: "Dear @NHL, Besides the whole walking thing, there's nothing I want more than an NHL season. Sincerely Jabs."

"Obviously it's one of my sports and my favorite sport by far," Jablonski said Monday about the NHL lockout. "It's sad to see. Hopefully they come up with something soon."

Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.

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