Vale’s Matt McBride said his dedication to sports reaped dividends in his academic endeavors. (Submitted photo)

VALE – The first thing he liked about the kid was his love of baseball.

Then Lucas Tackman saw that the young boy radiated a desire to learn.

Fresh out of high school and a former standout on the Vale High School baseball team, Tackman was an instructional assistant at the elementary school when a teacher approached him.

The teacher, Alisha McBride, told Tackman her son, Matt, wanted to be a great baseball player.

“She offered to stay after school and find something to do so he and I could play,” said Tackman. 

So, Tackman found time in his schedule after school to play catch with the young McBride and began teaching him about baseball.

Looking back, Matt McBride said Tackman’s effort, while seemingly small, was crucial.

“I didn’t realize how important it was back then. You don’t really think about those things. But he made time out of his day to play catch with me. It meant a lot to me. That kind of made my love for baseball grow,” said McBride.

Tackman went on to coach McBride in summer Little League baseball. 

“I saw a lot of myself in Matthew when I was that age. He had such an authentic love for the game and he really just needed one person to help him cultivate it,” said Tackman. McBride’s love of baseball and Tackman’s early mentoring turned into prep success. McBride became one of the Viking varsity baseball team’s main weapons on the mound. That, in turn, caught the attention of Blue Mountain Community College. In November, McBride signed a letter of intent to play for the Pendleton community college after he graduates in May.

“He was always that kid that wanted to be the best at everything when it came to baseball,” said Tackman.

McBride’s talent in baseball was apparent, but he also proved to be an impact player in football and a sol-player in football and a solid contributor in basketball. As his final year in high school dawned, all the pieces seemed in place for a golden finale to his prep career.

Then came the Vale-Burns football game in November. Just three plays into the game, McBride, a starting running back for the Vikings, took a handoff from quarterback Colton Kesey, ran a few yards and was tackled. Right after the tackle, McBride didn’t realized he had just suffered a season-ending, serious shoulder injury.

“Initially it felt like a stinger,” he said.

When McBride stood up to hand the ball to the referee, he couldn’t raise his left arm.

“I kind of walked over to the sidelines and by then the adrenaline had worn off and I thought ‘this is a little more than a stinger,’” he said.

The Vale football trainer examined his injury and told McBride he had separated his shoulder. A trip to the hospital in Burns confirmed that.

McBride said even then he wasn’t sure how serious the injury was or how much it might impact his prep sports ambitions. 

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Days later, though, he found out.

“I don’t think I realized how bad it was until I went to Idaho Sports Medicine (in Boise). After that visit was when I realized this was going to be way worse than I thought,” said McBride.

McBride learned his shoulder was not only dislocated but that he had also torn the labrum, ligaments and suffered nerve damage. 

He was going to need surgery. 

The input from doctors was sobering for McBride. McBride already verbally committed to play at Blue Mountain Community College after graduation and the day he was injured his letter of intent arrived. In November, before he realized how badly injured, he was, he signed the letter of intent to play at the community college.

His mom said the visit to the doctor was a shock.

“We both left in tears. We had no idea. Everyone tells you a dislocation is not very serious, and you put it back into place and move on. Do a little rehab. But his dislocation caused significant damage and we were not expecting that,” said Alisha McBride, who is also the superintendent of the Vale School District.

If there was any silver lining, it was that his injury was to his non-throwing shoulder.

In December, he underwent surgery.

“It took right about two hours and that was expected. That was the goal they were hoping for. The doctor said everything went good,” said McBride.

He began physical therapy at the end of the year and now hopes for steady progress on his shoulder. 

His high school sports career, though, is probably over. McBride said he may be able to join the Viking baseball team late in the season but emphasized that estimate is an optimistic one.

“The earliest I would be back for baseball would be the beginning of May. I’d just be pitching, I wouldn’t be able to hit,” he said.

Part of being a great athlete is the ability to overcome adversity and McBride said he is prepared to prevail over his shoulder injury.

He said he won’t allow a few seconds on the field in Burns define his athletic career.

“I am not upset about it. There is no reason to be upset. It happened,” said McBride.

Yet he’s not happy about the baseball season.

“It (baseball) has been the highlight of my year every year for the past three years. To know I won’t be able to play with my team, well, when I think about that it is kind of hard,” said McBride.

Still, he said he doesn’t regret his decision to undergo surgery. 

“I know if I want to do bigger and better things in the future it was what I had to do. And I am going to work as hard as I can to get back for spring (baseball),” he said.

McBride also said he misses being on a team.

“I love being part of a brotherhood,” he said.

McBride said athletics has made him a better person and a better student.

“Obviously, if you are not eligible you can’t play athletics. I’ve been expected to have good grades since I was in elementary school. But it is always a factor because you look at your grades a little more closely when you have something to work toward,” said McBride. He said playing a sport also helped him learn to be a good follower and leader.

“When you are part of a team you are in that leadership role and you are forced out of your shell. You have to trust your teammates and I think that makes you a more social person,” said McBride.

McBride said he is in the running to be the class salutatorian and carries a 3.93 grade point average.

The injury suffered in the Burns-Vale football game carried all the ingredients for a tragic ending, but McBride doesn’t see anything but a bright future. In the end, he said, it all comes down to attitude.

“You have to have the right attitude to win. If you go into a game thinking you are probably going to lose you are probably going to lose. I think my attitude has helped me,” he said. “There have been times where things don’t go our way and I am on the mound. But I don’t let those things get into my head.”

Matt McBride rests at Harney District Hospital in Burns just after he was knocked out of a football game against the Hilanders in November. McBride separated his shoulder in the game. (Submitted photo)

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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