July 22, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. - CollegeBaseballInsider.com has announced the finalists for the 2013 Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award, which includes a pair of Lafayette's right-handed pitchers, Cory Spera and Robert Tatum.
The award recognizes examples of inspiration in college baseball and is named for Wake Forest coach Tom Walter, who donated a kidney to freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan before the 2011 season. Walter was honored along with Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor and Arizona State outfielder Cory Hahn, both of whom were paralyzed during games in the 2011 season, and Bayler Teal, a 7-year-old boy whose battle with cancer inspired 2010 and 2011 national champion South Carolina in 2011, the first year of the award.
Spera and Tatum were selected as finalists for the award following their response to the severe neck injury suffered by Nick Balenger. While vacationing in Hawaii just weeks after his Lake Braddock (Va.) High School team had won the state title, Balenger dove over a wave and suffered a neck injury that left him paralyzed. Spera and Tatum, who played high school ball near Lake Braddock, read about Balenger's injury in The Washington Post and sent the star pitcher a two-page handwritten letter along with a hat and Leopards baseball shirt. In a note to Lafayette coach Joe Kinney, Balenger's parents said that of all the baseball teams and players that reached out to the family, none had touched them like the Lafayette Leopards.
"Two of your players, Cory Spera and Robert Tatum, reached out to Nick in a way that shows such great character that I had to let you know."
Of note, Balenger recently graduated from Lake Braddock, surprising his classmates by walking across the stage with the help of a walker.
For the full list of nominees and their stories, click here. The winner of the 2013 Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award will be announced on July 25.