HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A college baseball player is excelling on the field, but what he has overcome would be too much for many people his age.
If you saw Christian Pack in person, you'd think he looks like a normal college student, but his story is anything but ordinary. Due to heart problems, he's faced near-death experiences, but overcoming life-threatening odds hasn't kept him from becoming a star baseball player.
From a baseball fan's perspective, Pack looks like a prototypical collegiate shortstop. The King's College junior from Hanover Township is slender, with a quick fire release and sweet swing, but underneath the uniform, scars reveal a different story.
"It was the second one that was the most critical, really critical. He looked like a little monster coming out of the surgery because he had so much fluid. He was blown up. His head was expanded. It was rough. We didn't know if we were ever going to see him again," said John Pack, Christian's dad.
"I don't really know many of the details. Sometimes I'm afraid to ask because I don't want to hear all of that stuff. I understand what I've gone through, though. Even when people come up to me and ask me about my heart story and things like that, I just cut it off short, because one, I don't even know too much detail about it and two, I don't look for sympathy," said Christian Pack.
Pack was born on July 28, 1997 to John and Cathy Pack at Geisinger Wyoming Valley hospital.
"He was eight pounds, eight ounces at delivery, normal delivery. I played golf the week before I delivered him, so no intention of thinking anything like this was ever going to happen, so then all of a sudden this happens, and it just blindsides you," Cathy Pack said.
The day after Christian was born, John and Cathy received news that every parent dreads. The doctors discovered a heart murmur.
"Christian was turning blue that second day of life, so they life flighted him, took him down to Danville, and about a week later, they opened him up. They performed open-heart surgery by using a balloon," John Pack said.
But the troubles didn't stop there. At three months old, Christian went into congestive heart failure, putting his life in serious jeopardy.
"To have your child go through one open heart surgery when he's five days old, then get him through that, bring him home and the next thing you know, three months old was this huge surgery. We never thought we'd get him back after that."
As Christian grew older, the heart problems persisted. At five years old, he had a third open-heart surgery. Then, when Pack was a senior at Hanover Area High School, doctors opened him up again. With every recovery, another reminder that life holds special meaning. The same can be said for Christian's name.
"The doctor who performed the open-heart surgeries was Dr. Christian Gilbert throughout my childhood, and that's actually who I'm named after. I'm Christian Gilbert Pack, so without him, I wouldn't be doing this interview right now. It's definitely taken a toll on a mental, physical, and emotional part of my life. Being named after someone, who literally saved my life, that's what drives me. I'm going to make the most out of my life before I go."
Despite six heart surgeries--four open-heart--one thing has remained constant for Christian Pack: America's pastime. The baseball diamond is a place where he's been able to escape, excel, and defy all odds.
"The baseball field is honestly the only place that I can go to and all of the problems I encounter every single day just go away for those two hours or however long I'm on a baseball field. A place I can go to get my mind off of things throughout the day."
"I love watching him play, from Little League, on up to high school to college now. It's just amazing to watch him play."
"There's nothing he can't overcome. To go through what he's gone through, I don't think he feels like there's a challenge he can't take on."
And taking on challenges is exactly what Christian Pack has been doing his entire life. He's currently batting .360 on the Monarch baseball team, and although he will have to undergo another heart surgery down the road, Pack still dreams of playing professional baseball one day.
The Monarchs season came to a close over the weekend in the Mac Freedom Tournament. Pack finished the season with the second highest batting average on the team, and he still has one more season left.