BLUFFTON — Two years ago, Tim Berta truly thought his recovery, although remarkable, was “old news.”
Then the former Bluffton University student baseball coach who narrowly survived a bus crash in 2007 got an email from ESPN.
“I thought I was done with the media and things like that, but I was super excited,” Berta said. “It is not every athlete that has their story told on ESPN.”
Berta’s comeback story will appear on ESPN’s “E:60.” The show will air at 7 p.m. Oct. 9. Berta will be one of a few stories on that night.
The Bluffton team was traveling to Florida for a tournament when the bus plunged from a bridge and crashed into Interstate 75 in Atlanta.
The March 2, 2007, crash killed players Tyler Williams, of Lima, Scott Harmon, of Elida, David Betts, of Bryan, Cody Holp, of Arcanum, and Zachary Arend, of Oakwood. The bus driver and his wife, Jerome “Jerry” and Jean Niemeyer, of Columbus Grove, also died.
Berta was never expected to survive. And when he did, no one expected he would walk again, let alone drive a car, earn a degree or coach again. He has done it all.
“They said I would never get better. They said I was done and they did not say it in a nice way,” he said. “It was faith, hard work and a remarkable comeback from nearly impossible odds. The only reason I don’t say impossible is because I did it.”
Berta earned his Bluffton degree and now is working on a master’s degree in organizational leadership at Lourdes University in Toledo. He is a student coach for Lourdes’ baseball team.
ESPN crews met with Berta first on the campus of Lourdes. They then shot film and met Berta at Bluffton University this past March 2, when he attended a remembrance ceremony on campus. The crew then followed Berta to Florida, where the Lourdes’ baseball team was playing in a tournament, much like the one the Bluffton team was headed to five years earlier.
ESPN also talked with Bluffton baseball Coach James Grandey, 2007 Bluffton players and brothers Mike and A.J. Ramthun, Berta’s family and two of his doctors.
Berta underwent several surgeries immediately following the accident, including removing his spleen, a blood clot from his brain and a portion of his skull so his brain could swell. He remained in a coma for weeks, suffering multiple setbacks.
Berta opened his eyes for the first time nearly a month after the accident, the first day his teammates took the field that season. Grueling physical, speech and occupational therapy followed, with Berta needing to relearn how to walk, talk and even swallow. A year later, he began to walk.
Finishing his organized therapy two years ago, Berta continues to work out on the treadmill and elliptical and doing other things he did in therapy. He continues to improve.
He also continues to speak out about brain injuries, committed to getting the message out that it is possible to overcome a brain injury. He hopes ESPN viewers will understand what it took for him to survive and get better following the accident.
“I am hoping they realize and see how Jesus Christ walked with me through this mess,” he said. “And my extreme hard work helped me to get to where I am today, along with my family’s support and love.”
The Bluffton bus crash quickly garnered national attention. Previous stories appeared on ESPN and the 2007 team members were deemed heroes in “Sports Illustrated.”
Berta plans to watch the Oct. 9 show at home with his family in Ida, Mich.
“It has been a ride,” he said. “I am really looking forward to having people see me on the show, but it has been a wild ride.”
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