Little did Sean Harrell know how bending over to pick up a baseball would change the course of his life.
During his sophomore year at Georgia College & State, the Martinez native decided to attend a fall team practice despite nursing a broken hand. As players warmed up in the outfield, Harrell walked along the fence and noticed a ball. When he leaned down, he heard a warning.
Too late. An errant thrown ball struck Harrell on the side of his face, shattering his upper cheekbone. He suffered a concussion and spent the following two weeks in and out of a hospital after undergoing facial reconstruction surgery.
It was then he had an epiphany.
"I can't play baseball all my life," he said.
After taking a medical redshirt, Harrell switched his major from business to biology/pre-medicine. And after balancing his focus between academics and baseball, the fifth-year senior will be rewarded this weekend.
Harrell will participate in the pomp and circumstance of graduation ceremonies at 8 a.m. Saturday. A few hours later, he hits the road with his eighth-ranked team for a 6 p.m. game at USC Aiken in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
"I'm going to walk off the stage and get on the bus," he joked.
The 23-year-old Harrell has big plans. During the summer, he's going to take the MCAT with hopes of attending medical school. He's unsure what field of medicine he wants to concentrate on.
"I'm like a kid in a candy store," said Harrell, who's been a regular on the dean's list since switching majors. "Everything I see I enjoy."
Before he can think about becoming a doctor, Harrell has plenty of baseball left. The senior outfielder will play in the Peach Belt Tournament before he and his teammates likely earn a spot in next week's Division II Tournament.
Harrell has been a key member of the Bobcats squad this year. He entered with these career numbers: a .366 average, 10 homers, 69 RBI and 94 runs. This season, he's hitting a league-leading .474 with 11 homers, 52 RBI and 73 runs.
Harrell, along with teammate Shawn Ward of Evans, was named to the Peach Belt All-Conference first team Thursday.
The improved numbers are a result of a new-found commitment to the game. Last summer, the first in which he didn't have any classes, he attended the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a wooden bat league. He entered the summer weighing about 165 pounds. He exited weighing 184 -- all of it muscle.
"Last summer, I really made a focus to commit to baseball," he said. "I knew I needed to get bigger, stronger."
Harrell said he's played baseball as long as he can remember. He excelled at Lakeside High School, playing shortstop and third base before adding pitching duties his senior year.
He was recruited as a pitcher, though he admitted he didn't see himself on the mound in college. Harrell played sparingly as a freshman, but after his accident he returned and started 30 games his sophomore season. Last year, he was named to the Peach Belt second team.
Harrell is trying not to think too much about the Major League Baseball draft, which begins June 7.
He said his age might scare away some teams looking for younger prospects. Though he'd like to continue his baseball career, Harrell remains grounded.
"I'd like to keep playing as long as I can," he said. "But I know what I want to do with my career. I'm looking forward to a career in medicine."