Clarion County boy whose arm was reattached, former MLBer Casey play catch

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 11:31 p.m.

Seth Apel caught a baseball Wednesday with his left hand and then, in a seemingly single motion, flipped off his mitt, caught the ball with the same hand and threw it back.

The 12-year-old Knox boy is not left-handed, but he's innovative. On Nov. 7, he lost part of his right arm in Clarion County when a piece of tractor equipment snared his coat sleeve and sliced through his skin and bones.

Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and a trauma team reattached the arm in a six-hour surgery.

Grunwaldt, who subsequently developed a friendship with Seth and his parents, smiled proudly as he tossed the baseball in a physical therapy room inside Children's South in South Fayette.

The recipient was former Major League Baseball All-Star first baseman Sean Casey, who hails from Upper St. Clair. Casey played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox. He now works as a broadcaster and commentator for the MLB Network.

“That's really impressive,” Casey said, as Seth tossed the ball to him. “That's awesome. That's really cool.”

Grunwaldt arranged the surprise meeting, knowing Seth is an avid baseball fan and player.

“So are you going to play Little League this year?” Casey asked.

“That's the plan,” Seth responded.

Seth lifted his right arm up and down to demonstrate his progress.

Grunwaldt explained that his nerves are regenerating well.

“Seth has made a remarkable recovery,” she said. “He has a very strong will and works very hard in therapy. He's getting more and more arm function, which, of course, makes me happy.”

Seth's father, Josh Apel, who choked back tears in November while addressing the media, was in much better spirits Wednesday. He happily described how Seth learned the baseball maneuver after watching a few online videos.

“It's really nice to see this,” he said. “He's a lot more coordinated than I ever was. This hasn't really slowed him down.”

Seth's mother, Angie Apel, stood back and grinned as she took it all in.

“These are special moments,” she said.

Casey signed a few baseball cards for Seth and gave him a bobblehead, a pair of batting gloves and an autographed baseball that reads: “To Seth, All my best to you buddy. Have fun!”

He invited Seth's family to visit him at the MLB Network studio in New Jersey.

“You really are an inspiration,” Casey said. “You've got such a positive attitude. Keep at it.”

After Casey departed, the boy said: “That was pretty cool.”

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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