Maine moves past car wreck to keep dreams alive
After battling back from 2005 accident, reliever hopes to stick with Marlins
"It feels like I got shot in the head," Maine, now a reliever for the Miami Marlins, told his mom, Patricia.
Maine has graced the earth for more than 27 years, but he's fortunate to have seen his 21st birthday.
At 1 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2005, a prototypically sweltering summer afternoon in South Florida, Maine was cruising on the Florida Turnpike back to Miami from a dentist appointment in Jupiter, Fla., when he lost control of his 2003 Dodge Dakota RT.
That's all he remembers.
Maine can't recall his vehicle swiping another car, racing down a hill and smashing into a cluster of trees. He has no recollection of his head meeting his windshield. Maine can't summon any memories of his stout black truck morphing into a useless heap of metal in the matter of an instant.
"It's probably a good thing I don't remember," Maine said.
Maine certainly doesn't recall the restoration project executed by his doctors, who performed surgery and induced a coma to relieve the swelling in his brain, injected titanium rivets to piece together his fractured skull and basically recreated the upper half of his head.
Maine spent more than three weeks in a hospital bed, and for nearly nine days, he fluctuated in and out of consciousness.
"I didn't think he was ever going to be out of that hospital room," said Indians closer Chris Perez, Maine's former teammate in Cleveland and roommate at the University of Miami.
The accident occurred during the offseason, so Maine's collegiate cohorts were spread throughout the country. Perez first received the alert from his mother. A handful of Maine's fellow Hurricanes wasted little time in reuniting at North Broward Medical Center to visit their traumatized teammate.
"I didn't really think it was that serious until I got there and saw, 'Wow, this is pretty [messed] up,'" Perez said. "He was out of it, wasn't able to talk very loudly or in long sentences or anything. He had bandages on his head. You couldn't see his scars."
Maine doesn't remember his teammates visiting him, and therefore he has no recollection of promising them that he would be ready to pitch at the start of the season, five months later.
"It drove me to get healthy and get back on the field," Maine said. "Baseball is what I live for. This is why I'm here. I wanted to show people that I could still do it and overcome things."
Maine used to sport long hair that sprouted out the sides of his baseball cap. The look accommodated his persona on the mound: a hard-throwing, sometimes-erratic southpaw who imposed his will on the rubber with a deceptive arm angle. Now, he dons a shaved head, boring a scar that spans the width of his skull. Maine tells people he has a hard head or that he suffered a shark bite. When speaking about his near-fatal car accident, he boasts a nonchalance that greatly understates the severity of the entire episode.
"It is what it is," Maine said. "I have a big scar on my head for a reason. I can't hide it."
And so, he embraces the opportunity to teach.
At the time of the crash, Maine's seatbelt wasn't strapped over his shoulder, in position to protect his body. Who knows how much trauma he could have saved himself had he buckled up.
Since the accident, Maine has returned every so often to his old stomping grounds in South Florida and preached about the importance of driving safety and maximizing every opportunity in life, a pair of lessons he learned the hard way.
"They look at it like, 'It's a car accident. You're still alive. That's crazy, man. Wow,'" Maine said. "I just try to tell them to wear their seatbelt, because I wasn't wearing my seatbelt, and [I tell them] how important that is. [I talk about] how fast things can change to being on top of the world to be fighting for your life."
It's uncanny how things tend to come full circle in life.
Maine has bounced around four Major League organizations in the past few months. The Indians claimed his off waivers from the Cubs in late August. The Blue Jays poached him from Cleveland at the end of October. The Marlins added him two weeks later.
Now, he's home. Maine lives just five minutes from the Marlins' Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Fla.
Many people are fortunate to receive second chances. Maine underwent Tommy John surgery in 2004. He took a redshirt his first year at Miami while he recovered from the procedure. A year later, working his elbow back toward full strength, Maine pitched only nine innings.
Then, the near-fatal wreck.
So now Maine is on his third chance, and despite occupying the uncertain role of a journeyman reliever, he has at least realized his dream of pitching in the Majors. And, as fate would have it, he'll have a chance to do so right back where it started, and nearly ended.
"It goes along with the saying, 'Throw every pitch like it's your last,'" Maine said. "That made it more of a reality. It's not just a saying; it actually occurred in my life. It helped me in that aspect to where, when I go on the field, I don't do anything half. I go 100 percent.
"You never know when you'll not be able to play the game of baseball."