We often use the words “amazing” and “inspirational” when they’re not necessary, when we want to emphasize a story that might be heartwarming. I’m guilty of this often, swept away by hyperbole like Aladdin on his magic carpet. But this story about Michigan basketball player Austin Hatch really is amazing and, frankly, unbelievable.
Hatch has survived not one but two plane crashes. In 2003, he lost his mother and two siblings in a flight piloted by his father. He was eight years old at the time. Then, in 2011, Hatch fell into a medically induced coma after another plane crash, this one killing his father and stepmother.
Many assumed Hatch’s basketball career was over. At the time he was being pursued by the University of Michigan. After several months in the hospital with a punctured lung, fractured ribs, and a brain injury, Hatch vowed to get back on the basketball court. He moved in with his uncle in California to finish high school and in January of this year, played in a basketball game, his first since the crash.
“The emotional pain is never going to subside,” Hatch said at the time. “Over time, the way I cope with my loss is going to change.”
Michigan kept their commitment to Hatch and honored his scholarship — not because they had to, but because they wanted to. On Monday night, the Wolverines played an exhibition game against Wayne State and late in the game, Hatch made his way to the court.
This is where you grab a tissue.
In the box score it will say Hatch scored 1 point, a single free throw in a blowout victory for the University of Michigan. But it was much more than that. It was the culmination of a miraculous three-year run.