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Tribute set for Jon Wilhite

Wilhite, injured in the car crash that killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, will throw the first pitch at a minor league game at Fullerton on Monday night.

July 06, 2009|Mario Aguirre

When Jon Wilhite walks across Goodwin Field tonight to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, his father Tony will be by his side, still not comprehending how his son survived the car crash that killed three friends, one of them Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.

Tonight, the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League will pay tribute to those who helped save Jon Wilhite during their game against the Calgary Vipers at Cal State Fullerton -- the field the former Titans catcher knows so well.

"This is where his college career started," the elder Wilhite said last week. "How fitting to be on the field again, with the opportunity to thank the first responders to the crash."

His son, 24, suffered extensive injuries in the April 9 wreckage, including fractured disks in his back, a broken right clavicle and a broken bone in his ear. After three weeks in intensive care, he began rehabilitation, working on balance, vision and speech. He declined to be interviewed for this article.

"On medical terms, he's off the charts," his father said. "The doctors are shocked. Ninety-five percent of the time, people are internally decapitated and never leave the scene" of the accident. "He's definitely a miracle."

Flyers Manager and Fullerton alum Phil Nevin, who played 11 seasons in the major leagues, helped lobby for tonight's game to help raise funds to defray medical expenses.

"When the accident occurred, it felt like one of your family members was hurt," he said. "And you do everything to help someone in your family."

Oakland Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki, Wilhite's Fullerton teammate, also helped by recently auctioning memorabilia donated by nearly every major league team.

Admission tonight is free. Proceeds from raffles and auction items donated by the Angels and Dodgers go to the Jon Wilhite Recovery Fund.

"It's amazing that he's in the place that he's in right now," Titans Coach Dave Serrano said. "It's a miracle that he's walking around and talking. . . . His spirits are good and he continues to get better."

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mario.aguirre@latimes.com

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