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Warhawk closer's life saved by McMurry family

By Casey Keirnan, ckeirnan
Published On: Feb 07 2013 06:04:41 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 09 2013 06:34:01 PM CST
McMurry Baseball Hejny
ABILENE, Texas -

Warhawk closer Charlie Hejny arrived at McMurry University in Fall of 2010. McMurry Baseball knew they had an athlete with control at the plate, but they didn’t know that their catcher recruit had lost control of everything else.

Hejny had been a pitcher in little league in his home state of Nevada. The team rode Hejny's arm to two consecutive Nevada State Little League Championships. They even advanced to the early stages of the Little League World Series in the early 2000's, falling eventually to Guam. If you asked any one of his teammates back then, Charlie was destined for the Major Leagues.

His life would take a wrong turn in high school. Hejny began recreational drug and alcohol use that seemed harmless at first but would eventually lead to the only freshman on varsity baseball failing to even complete his senior year on the field. Things escalated and chance after chance was missed. There was an opportunity at Chico State in which Hejny broke his hand before opening day or the loss of the starting catcher position at Cisco Junior College.

Hejny decided to start anew at Eastfield Junior College near Fort Worth. With an 18-0 season and at .450+ batting average underway, the calls started coming in. Hejny was offered scholarships to Tarleton State and Nichols State among others, but preferred walk on at programs of the likes of TCU. By the end of his first Eastfield season however, his batting average had slumped and Eastfield fell in the second round of the post-season. With offers dwindling, Hejny decided on the closest DIII to his family with the best facilities. He chose McMurry.

"It kind of came to a head at the end of the season, he was helping us out, we were hosting a big tournament," McMurry head coach John Byington told KTXS, "that’s when I saw that he was emotionally having some significant emotional difficulty and needed some help."

His emotions weren't the only thing getting the best of him, Hejny began to experience significant physical side effects due to his drug and alcohol use.

"Even in the eighth, ninth inning of the game, I wouldn’t be thinking about the game, I would just be thinking about me dieing all the time," Hejny explained, "I realized what my problem was, I was an addict. I knew what the problem was, I knew I wanted to fix it but I didn’t know how."

At the same time Hejny decided to make a change, he was formally introduced to Bill Libby. Libby, a former Army Chaplain and McMurry Athletic Director was now an Old Testament professor and McMurry Athletics enthusiast.

"I heard from coaches that he was having some trouble," Libby told KTXS of the situation, "he would have emotional upset, they would send him off the field, that sort of thing."

So on the final day of class in 2011, Libby confronted Charlie in the school's cafeteria.

"He corners me on the last day of school and he says Charlie, you need to get off the drugs." Hejny recalled.

"I asked him to come stay at my house, take care of himself. Within a few days, his behavior was so erratic that his dad arranged for a rehab program in Austin," Libby explained, "I agreed to take him there and turn him in."

After successful completion of his rehab program, Charlie moved back to Abilene. Under the care of Mr. Libby that Summer, he learned to adapt to normal life. The two read the newspaper and had breakfast, took daily walks and discussed everything under the sun.

"He never told me to do anything, I felt like I was given this opportunity to live at this man’s house, I’m going to live up to it." Hejny told KTXS, "I took that last chance and ran with it. I just really wanted to make him proud. And make McMurry proud."

Hejny stayed close with McMurry baseball and was given a job working at Walt Driggers Field that Summer. It was at this time that Head Coach Byington decided to give Hejny a run out at pitcher. Progress was slow at first but by the second half of last season, Hejny was on the mound for the Warhawks during every close situation. It hasn't slowed down this year either. Hejny recorded two saves in McMurry's opening games of Division II in which they swept Oklahoma Panhandle State in the Heartland Conference.

Looking back on that Summer, Mr. Libby recalled that the stars were aligned for a life to be saved. "He was ready to make a change in his life and it was very important that he was at a college that cared not only for his body in baseball, his mind in the academic area but also his total spirit."

"I’m pretty sure I would have died, if I would have used one more time I would have died, that’s how I felt," Hejny said. "I’ll never be able to repay what this school gave me."