Cooper Gardner loved baseball.
On April 21, the junior at Bath High School in Michigan was playing in a junior varsity game when he suffered a severe brain injury, school officials wrote in a Facebook post.
Team coach Michael Collins said the 16-year-old was trying to stop a runner from stealing second base, The Lansing State Journal reported.
When Gardner went down to try to field the ball and tag the player, the runner’s knee hit him in the head and the runner fell on top of him, Collins said, according to the Journal.
He was knocked unconscious for 40 minutes, his dad Kris Gardner told WILX.
He was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined he’d suffered “traumatic brain injury along with heart and lung complications,” according to a GoFundMe campaign.
Cooper Gardner stayed in intensive care for six days before he was moved to a regular room.
The school community rallied around him, selling #CoopStrong T-shirts and wristbands to help raise money to cover his medical expenses.
He was released from the hospital at the end of April, WILX reported.
At the time, the teen told the outlet he was trying to ease back into normal life.
“I’m just trying to get as much rest as I can, stuff like that,” Gardner told WILX. “Slowly start easing back into, getting things back in my life. Trying to get back into my routine, that kind of thing.”
Days later, events took a turn for the worse.
He died at home unexpectedly on May 2, roughly a week and a half after the collision, according to a post on GoFundMe.
Collins, the baseball coach, remembers the teen as a hard worker who loved the sport and always wanted to improve.
“If you had a bad day, you could go to practice and see his smiling face and all is right in the world,” Collins told the Lansing State Journal. “As smart as can be, (he) had everything in front of him. Good student, humble kid. ... He was just too young.”
Collins said he’s struggling to make sense of the tragedy.
“I’ve never witnessed something like that,” he told the Journal. “You always read about things going wrong, but you never think it’s going to be one of your kids.”
In the teen’s obituary, loved ones described Gardner as an “exceptional” student and a “perfectionist in everything he did” who was eager to learn and grow. They said the avid Michigan State Spartan fan always maintained a positive outlook even in the face of opposition.
“Although his life was not long, he lived every moment to the fullest and established an enduring relationship with those around him,” his obituary said.
The family is receiving loved ones on May 8.
Bath Township is just north of Lansing.