Paralyzed Johnston County teen throws out first pitch at high school game

KENLY, N.C. (WTVD) -- When 17-year-old Nate Clifton rolled his wheelchair onto the baseball diamond Wednesday evening, all eyes were on him.

The North Johnston High School junior was hospitalized for two months after a terrible car accident left him paralyzed.

RELATED: Crash in Johnston County leaves student-athlete paralyzed

Clifton, who was just released from WakeMed in Raleigh last week, threw out the first pitch for the Panthers in their home game against the Smithfield-Selma Spartans.

"When he first rolled in, it's just hard man. We just love each other," said Panthers head coach Brian Ford. "I can tell when he hit that dugout, that we just flipped-the-script mentality."

Nate was hopeful for a strike for his first pitch, but settled on the fact that others who have tried have done far worse.

Clifton's father, Leon, described the moment as bittersweet. He, along with other friends and family, wanted to see Nate in full uniform playing this evening. Obvious circumstances, however, prevent him from doing so.

"It was just really good to be able to get back out here on the field and kind of take (stress) away from us and allow us to have some good time watching baseball," said Leon Clifton.

Nate's best friend, senior standout Chastin Bailey, is wearing his number 12 this year in his honor.

"I feel like it makes him proud because it makes me proud," Bailey added.

In his first at-bat, Bailey hit for a double. He would go on to finish the evening 3-for-3.

Speaking of the double, Nate chimed in, "He's fast. I knew he was gonna get it!"

The Panthers beat the Spartans 10-0. The game was stopped due to the mercy rule.

While in the hospital, friends and family completed renovations on the Clifton home to make it wheelchair-friendly.

"It was pretty special," Nate said. "Just all the support. All the people that have been there."
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