De La Salle Grad, Aspiring Journalist, Critically Hurt In Fall At College

by Dennis O'Donnell

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — I don’t normally reveal my sources, especially if it’s a source who broke the story of a Jim Harbaugh recruiting trip in the Bay Area. I’m breaking that rule today because I want you to know who my source is.

He is student-athlete and De La Salle High School grad. And right now he is battling for his life after a freak accident at his college.

It was last January when I was tipped off that the Michigan coach was on the De La Salle campus in Concord.  My source: Ryan Abele, senior pitcher on the De La Salle baseball team, an aspiring journalist, and my pipeline of information to Harbaugh’s every move that day via text.

Ryan: Harbaugh just went into a classroom with Boss Tagaloa.
Me: my camera is on its way. How long will he be there?
Ryan: let me find out

This correspondence goes on for an hour.  Ryan realizes he is my source of information that is now being tweeted to all of my 2,000 followers.  It is being retweeted and gaining traction.

Ryan: He’s headed to the gym.
Me: For what?
Ryan: He’s playing a game of horse with the basketball coach!

Harbaugh wasn’t trying to hide. Quite the opposite, in fact.  Harbaugh is the life of the party, whether he is recruiting, coaching, playing horse or announcing the homecoming queen.

While I desperately wanted to get an interview with Harbaugh, I realized I was enjoying this moment more for Ryan than myself. The up-and-coming Cronkite was breaking news and loving it – his first taste of what’s hopefully a long and fulfilling life in journalism. I recently told this story to Harbaugh and he quipped, “Quite a source. Kid’s got a future!”

Last Sunday morning, less than two months into his freshman year at the University of Nevada, Reno, Ryan was walking down a flight of stairs when he missed one step. One damn step.

He tumbled head-first into a concrete wall, suffering severe head trauma. He ruptured a vein and his brain swelled. He underwent surgery on Sunday to relieve the pressure and the doctor said he might not make it through the night. He is in a battle for his life and every minute, every hour, every day matters.

De La Salle HS students gather to support Ryan Abele around the mound where he used to pitch. (CBS)

De La Salle HS students gather in support of Ryan Abele around the mound where he used to pitch. (CBS)

When I arrived in Reno Tuesday morning, the hospital lobby was filled with members of Team Ryan, or as Harbaugh might say, “the team, the team, the team.”

De La Salle high school sent a picture of the initials RA written into the pitching mound.  I grabbed a Warriors commemorative basketball out of my trunk and handed it to Team Ryan to write words of encouragement. “Power in Numbers” was the Warriors mantra. Until further notice, it’s Ryan’s.

Before I made the trip, I hugged my kids as tight as I could and told them I loved them. The four-hour journey gave me time to reflect on the fragility of life, the memories we make in our journey and the people and times we sometimes take for granted.

Ryan is the youngest source I’ve ever had.  He has the passion that every aspiring journalist needs to succeed.  I look forward to the next story he breaks and I anxiously await the next message from him on my phone, saying he’s going to be okay.

More from Dennis O'Donnell
Comments

One Comment

  1. Probably staring at his phone when he tripped. Today’s young people are such foolish addicts to that device.

  2. Patrick Jones says:

    Another dumb high school kid paying for his stupidity. Good to hear these stories.

  3. andy k says:

    Just learned Ryan passed away today

  4. karenl underhill says:

    We sometimes do not realize that at any time we can be injured, and it can be just broken bones or serious. We should count our blessings and take time to think that a simple missed step can kill you. I am so sorry for Ryan and his family and friends. My heart goes out to all.

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