Trent Seymour becomes Canada's first paraplegic fastball umpire

Trent Seymour was a promising teenage fastball player until he was paralyzed in a hunting accident. Now he's returned to fastball fields and the game he loves in a wheelchair — as Canada's first paraplegic umpire.

Teen pitcher paralyzed in hunting accident returns to game as umpire

Trent Seymour, 18, works behind home plate at Prince George's Spruce City Stadium. He's Canada's first paraplegic umpire for fastball. (Facebook)

By Betsy Trumpener

Trent Seymour was a rising star on the fastball field until an accident took him out of the game.

As a teenager, Seymour was a promising pitcher and catcher. In 2014, he helped his team win gold at the North American Indigenous Games.

Trent Seymour was a promising fastball pitcher who helped his team win gold at the North American Indigenous Games. (Facebook)

Paralyzed by hunting accident

But soon after, at the age of 16, Seymour was paralyzed in a shooting accident.

Seymour was hunting elk with his friends in the wilderness near his home on the Lheidli T'enneh reserve outside Prince George, B.C.

He had just crouched down to make an elk call when a friend's gun went off.

"I remember kind of floating to the ground," Seymour recalled.

'All I wanted to do was live'

"I can't really describe the pain. The bullet went through my spine and bounced around inside me a few times. It was on fire, searing," he said.

"If you watch any war movie, the young boy who gets shot is basically screaming for his life. That was me on that day."

Seymour was so badly injured, he thought he was dying.

"I was screaming for God, screaming for my buddies."

He urged his friends to call for help and give him first aid.

"All I wanted to do was live."

Seymour was airlifted to hospital in Vancouver.

After being shot in a hunting accident, Seymour spent weeks in an intensive care unit and months in rehabilitation. (Facebook)

He spent weeks in the intensive care unit, relying on tubes to help him breathe and eat. The bullet had injured his intestines, pancreas, kidney, spleen, colon and lung. It also damaged his spine, leaving the teenager a paraplegic.

But after months of rehabilitation, Seymour could move around again in a wheelchair.

Umpire on wheels

And as he regained his health, he decided he wanted to return to fastball.

"You got to really focus on what you can do and get back involved in the things you love," he said.

Seymour signed up for umpire training and passed the required tests. This summer, he rolled back into the Spruce City Stadium where he used to play.

"It feels great to be out here," said Seymour, 18, as he geared up to umpire a men's fastball game on a hot summer night. "It's different, not being in the action as a player, but I'm content."

Seymour said there are definite advantages for an umpire in a wheelchair. There's no uncomfortable squatting or crouching. His wheelchair puts him in the perfect position to assess strikes at eye level, and he's mobile enough to dodge the pitches that fly dangerously close. 

"I haven't got nailed yet," said Seymour, who developed quick reflexes playing fastball and hockey.

Trent Seymour says his wheelchair puts him in an ideal position for assessing pitches. (Facebook)

From the stadium's old wooden bleachers, fastball fans like Shawna Talbot keep an eye on Seymour's calls. 

"I've never seen an umpire in a wheelchair," said Talbot. "I was surprised. Very surprised.

"I was like, 'wow!'. He's in a wheelchair and I can't believe he's doing this. And he's really good at what he's doing."

'Rep your chair'

Seymour hopes what he's doing out on the field will inspire other people in wheelchairs. 

"Put yourself out there," he advised. "Rep your chair!"

He's humble about being Canada's first paraplegic fastball umpire.

"I haven't changed," he said  "It's just the way I get around has changed."

With files from Carolina de Ryk and Daybreak North