By: Kyle Goddard
Imagine living the dream of playing college baseball, an opportunity which many don’t have the chance to be a part of, and have it taken away from you in a split second. This was the case for Jacob Houston, a 22 year-old outfielder from Gloucester, Virginia, when he was told that he had a rare blood disorder called Protein S Deficiency, that would prevent him from ever playing baseball again. This traumatizing event took a tremendous toll on Houston because he has played baseball since he was 8 years old and it became a way of life for him ever since he was a young boy. He didn’t know what to do and he was lost without baseball. Houston came to Christopher Newport University in the fall of 2012 as a freshman with the unique opportunity to play for the Captains baseball team, which was ranked 8th in the preseason polls, after coming of a stellar season in which they made it to the Division III College World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin.
I have had the opportunity to play baseball with Jacob Houston for two years here at Christopher Newport and I will honestly say that he is not only a very good baseball player but an even a better person and friend. He is the type of person who would do anything for you if you asked him and he is always there for you when you need him. On the field, he would stop at nothing to make the plays that his team needed, even if that meant running through the outfield wall to catch a fly ball. I got the chance to talk to some of his teammates here at CNU and all of them had nothing but good things to say about him. Justin Garber, a pitcher and two year teammate of Houston at CNU, says, “He’s the type of person that you want on your team. He leaves it all out on the field and he gives 100% no matter what the situation. Off the field, as a friend and teammate, he is the exact same way. He’s a great friend and even though he no longer could play baseball, he was always hanging with the guys and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In his mind, we all formed a bond that would outlast our time together on the field and that’s something that you don’t always find and that truly illustrates the type of person he is.” I completely agree with Garber because Houston’s bulldog mentality on the field and electric personality had tremendous positive effects on his teammates and anyone he happened to cross paths with. His friends and teammates love hanging out with him just because he was so enjoyable to be around.
In Houston’s first two seasons at Christopher Newport, he had a tremendous impact on the team. Houston started every game his freshman year and all but 3 games in his sophomore season in left field for the Captains. Houston’s batting average over those two seasons was .282 and he recorded 81 hits and 61 RBIs. Even as one of the younger players on the team, Houston had many of the qualities of a leader that many of his teammates admired. Houston was one of those players that everyone looked up to, even though he wasn’t the oldest on the team. He was always there to pick you up if you made a mistake and praise you for your success. He was the first person to come out of the dugout to greet a player who had hit a home run and the first person to let the pitcher know that they had a great inning on the mound.
In the fall of Houston’s junior year, right before winter workouts, he noticed some pain in his calf. He had been going to the trainer to work on it because he felt that it might have been a pulled muscle or a calf strain. Houston recalled, “I woke up one morning to go to class and I couldn’t put any weight down on my leg as I got out of bed. When I got some feeling back, I immediately walked to the trainer’s office and told the trainer about it and she was still treating it as a calf strain, so we did a little bit more extensive stretching.” Houston left the trainer’s office and continued on his way to class where he ended up running into his fellow teammate, Kyle Corwin. Corwin asked Houston how he had been doing with his leg since he knew he was having some troubles with it. “I picked my leg up to show him what had been going on with it and when I put my leg back down, and couldn’t put any weight on it for the second time that day. I knew something was wrong so I went right back to the trainer’s office,” Houston said. When he got back to the trainer’s office, the head trainer had the school’s doctor look at Houston’s leg to further evaluate the problem. After the doctor looked at it, he sent Houston to the emergency room at Riverside Hospital to do further testing.
When Houston finally met with the doctor he was diagnosed with a hereditary blood disorder called, Protein S Deficiency. Protein S Deficiency is a disorder associated with an increased risk of venous thrombosis, which is the formation of blood clots within your veins. According to Houston, “It’s a disorder that skipped a few generations. My mom and dad never had it, my grandparents never had it, and my brother and sister never had it. Come to find out, I had a great grandfather who had this disorder that was passed down to me.” Houston explained how rare the disorder was and he couldn’t believe that it had skipped 3 generations directly to him. When I asked him about the disorder he said “Basically, your body has two types of protein in it, Protein S and Protein C. Protein S is what regulates your blood to coagulate and clot when you get a cut. What happens when you have this disorder is, even when you don’t have a cut, your blood is just coagulating to produce clots in the blood that runs through your veins.” Houston had developed a clot in his calf that, over time, broke apart and spread throughout other parts of his body. The doctor immediately put him on blood thinners to help get rid of the clots.
Houston spent the next few months going back and forth to different doctors to try and treat his disorder. He was told that if he had to take blood thinners, then he could not play baseball again. Houston stated, “Every time I went to the doctor, my first question was about baseball. I always asked if I was going to be able to play again and also how long it would be before I could get back on the field. I just wanted to do everything I could to get back out there.” Even though Houston wasn’t playing, he was at the field every day for practice and did everything he could to be involved with the team. He would hit fly balls to the outfielders and ground balls to the infielders even though the trainer told him not to. He was always doing everything he could to get back into the game. Houston travelled with the team to every away game and was always welcome to be with the team on and off the field. He was finally told that he could not play baseball his entire junior season but was told that he might be able to play his senior season if everything went well.
When he was asked about who helped him get through this traumatizing time in his life, Houston stated, “Baseball was on my mind as it has been my entire life and also my own health was a big issue because I was wondering how this was going to affect me for the rest of my life but you know my teammates and friends helped me get through it and they were there for me when I needed them.” His teammates were the ones that were there for him when he needed them the most. He claimed that it would have been a lot harder to get through if his teammates didn’t get him through it. He then stated, “But the most influential person was my mom, she is the strongest person that I know and she suffered through a couple of strokes herself. What I was going through was miniscule compared to what she went through and knowing that she was strong enough to make it through all of that really inspired me throughout this whole process.” Houston’s mom had suffered a stroke just a year before and Houston claimed that she was an unbelievable inspiration to him just because she was such a strong woman and even though she had her own health to worry about she was always there for him.
Houston still remained hopeful and was remaining positive throughout this process. He went to his Hematologist, who told him that he could play his senior season as long as he took precautions to remain safe. He told him about all of the risks he would be taking if he continued to play and Houston was ecstatic that he was going to be able to play once again. He returned to the trainer with all of the paperwork and the trainer told him that the school’s doctor would have the final say. The school’s doctor went against the advice from Houston’s blood doctor and denied Houston the chance to play at CNU for the rest of his career because the risks were too great. At first Houston stated, “I was furious. My doctor cleared me to play and the school doctor said I couldn’t, I knew the risks at the time and I just wanted to get back out there. Then, after weeks of being upset about it, I realized that the school doctor probably made his decision because he didn’t want to see me get hurt or worse on the field because of his decision. I came to terms with the decision after that and was just thankful that I was healthy.” Houston’s friends, family, and teammates were also very thankful that he was healthy and were relieved that he got treated before anything worse could happen to him while playing baseball.
After this news, Houston said, “You know I definitely miss playing baseball and everything about it from going to practice to playing in the games. My competitive nature just really made me want to be out there but I try to remain positive and look forward to my future.” Houston is in his senior year here at CNU and is on course to graduate on time. “I’m about to graduate at the end of this semester and look forward to getting a job and starting my career out of college. I’ve been staying active and competing in intramural sports to keep my mind off of things but all in all, I’m just thankful for the opportunity I had to play here and am thankful that I got to play with the group of guys that I did.”