BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - A Boynton Beach college student - who plays baseball for FSU - is in a Melbourne hospital tonight, days after surviving a skydiving accident.
"(He) had obviously a thrill for life," said Carm Mazza, Stephen Spradling's former baseball coach at American Heritage High School in Delray Beach. "He's just a great kid. Works tremendously hard. Leads by example, on and off the field."
One of the Boynton Beach native's favorite activities, along with baseball, religion and family, was spear fishing with sharks.
"We'd say, 'Stephen, you've gotta slow down,' and he'd say, 'no, I'm gonna skydive,' this and that, we'd just shake our head," said Mazza. "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him."
Spradling became a certified skydiver.
But on Sunday, near Melbourne during a group dive, on his way down, Spradling was forced to avoid a collision with another diver.
"The way he was coming down, how I was told, was headfirst. And to maneuver inside fifty to a hundred feet is near impossible from what I've been told. He somehow maneuvered to land in the best way he could to survive," said Mazza.
Spradling broke his pelvis and several other bones, putting on hold the baseball career of someone who was slated to compete for a starting job his senior year at powerhouse FSU.
"We're all a little on edge thinking it's time for neighbors to rally, and pray for Stephen and show them how much we love them," said neighbor Mary Rodriguez.
Mazza wouldn't be surprised if he takes the field again.
"It's going to be a long trip, I can see him doing it. Without a doubt, " said Mazza.
Stephen's mother told NewsChannel5 that she doesn't want the accident to reflect poorly on skydiving. She also says reports that his baseball career is over are untrue.
She says her son expects to make a full recovery.
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