By Greg Johnson
During his junior season in 2007, Joe Mare collected 82 hits to set a C.W. Post single-season record.
He led the team with a .402 batting average, 17 doubles, six home runs, 51 RBI and a .593 slugging percentage.
Major League Baseball scouts, including those from the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers, showed interest in the third baseman. It was a dream scenario for a Division II baseball player.
Unfortunately, Mare doesn’t remember any of it.
The world as he knew it changed Feb. 10, 2008, when he was struck by a car a couple of weeks before his senior season was to begin.
Mare was walking in the neighborhood where he grew up in Whitestone, N.Y., and was about a mile from his family home when the accident happened. He broke the tibia and fibula in both legs and had a fractured skull, a collapsed lung, a fractured left elbow, orbital fractures and bleeding on the brain. He was in a coma for a month.
He was hit by a person who lives in his neighborhood.
“He did at least call the cops and didn’t just drive off,” Mare said. “That saved my life. But I just have too many feelings to talk to him right now.”
Doctors gave Mare less than a 20 percent chance of surviving. When he regained consciousness, Mare recognized family members, but other parts of his memory were erased.
“I don’t remember the 2007 season at all,” said Mare, who rehabilitated for three years to compete in his senior season this spring at C.W. Post. “In fact, I don’t remember much of my career at all. My memory is coming back, though, otherwise. I remember some of the times I spent with family and friends when they talk about them.”
His parents, Thomas and Nancy, showed him pictures of his past student-athlete days and told him stories about his life and career. Sometimes that sparks memories.
“Sometimes I can kind of picture the things that people are talking about,” Mare said. “I can’t remember things perfectly. But sometimes I could be driving or walking somewhere, and I can see myself being there in the past. That’s pretty good, and better than it used to be.”
Joe Mare receives the first-ever Pioneer Spirit Award from C.W. Post athletics director Bryan Collins earlier this month.
Mare’s long road to recovery was a painful trip. He’s had around 20 surgeries and has had to re-learn basic functions.
“I had to learn to stand up, walk, talk, and after that, I had to learn to run,” Mare said. “I had to learn how to do each activity at a time. All of it took quite a while.”
The hardest part was trying to learn how to run again. Mare suffered compound fractures in his left leg, which complicated rehabilitation.
“They had to transfer bone marrow from my hip to my left leg to fix it,” Mare said. “Running is something you take for granted until you can’t do it at all. It was painful to do.”
While Mare couldn’t return to the field physically in the 2008-09 academic year, he did return to class and earn his psychology degree at C.W. Post.
“It was tough going to school in the fall of 2008, and my mind wasn’t too good for that semester,” Mare said. “But I did it. It’s like everything else; I wanted to push through and get it done.”
While he continued to work on his physical rehabilitation, Mare entered graduate school to study counseling. He is in the midst of a practicum internship at his high school alma mater, Holy Cross High School, this spring and will do a full internship beginning in the fall.
He was finally cleared by doctors and took a roster spot on the C.W. Post baseball team for the 2011 season. He was 2-for-13 this season with six walks.
He made his long-awaited debut Feb. 20 when he pinch-hit against Felecian. He made an out, but everyone associated with the C.W. Post baseball program knew the significance of him stepping into the batter’s box.
“It was weird walking back up to the plate,” Mare said. “I hadn’t done it in so long, but in a way, it felt like I never left.”
Mare’s most memorable moment this season came in his second at-bat April 6. He lined a single between the shortstop and third baseman. The ball resides in the Mare’s family kitchen.
“That was my first hit in three years,” Mare said proudly. “My dad was at the game, and my mom was talking to him on the phone when it happened.”
A few days later he was put into the starting lineup as the designated hitter. Mare went 0-for-4, but he knew he was making progress.
“I worked the count to 3-2 twice, and I fouled some pitches off that day,” Mare said. “It tells me the more pitching I see; the better I will get.”
He has plans to play in a men’s league this summer.
“I just want to see how much I can improve,” said Mare, who turns 25 in June. “I’ve improved drastically in each at-bat. It’s going to be OK. The hard part is over. It’s a matter of tweaking it and getting it all together.”
While he was able to have his senior season this spring, rehabilitation will be an ongoing battle for Mare.
“I always had the thought in the back of mind that if I just kept pushing through the bad times I would eventually be all right,” Mare said. “I just have to keep working. I thought I would be back a lot sooner than this. We didn’t know what a traumatic brain injury entailed. My legs were shattered. I didn’t know how crazy this all would be. Maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t know how hard it would be. I have to keep working at getting better, and I’m still young.”