WASHINGTON — Chaz Orr has a scar in the middle of his chest stretching the length of his sternum.
He has a similar, but older one, on his back.
“When they said I had to have open-heart surgery, all I could think about was if I was going to live,” said Orr, a freshman at Washington.
Orr had successful open-heart surgery in October — his second in his young, 14-year life — and has since become an inspiration for the school’s baseball team, successfully working his way back to the field.
He’s done more than just play, though. He’s become the starting second baseman and No. 3 hitter in the lineup while delivering key hits and even throwing well on the mound.
“He’s a little bitty, short and chubby kid, but the kid can play baseball,” Washington senior Bo Nixon said. “He’s our best baseball player on the team. As a leader and senior on this team, I look up to him. He’s the leader from the start of the game until the finish. He’s the one who keeps us going.”
Orr, who is 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, is hitting .250 with two home runs and 10 runs batted in this season. He’s also 2-2 on the mound.
THE LONG JOURNEY
Chaz Orr’s focus is on the team first. On Oct. 14, though, his focus was on surviving.
His heart issues started when he was 17 months old. Diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta, Orr had to have surgery to fix the condition, which involves narrowing of the aorta, and left him with the scar on his back.
The surgery, though, was a temporary fix. Orr always knew he would have to have another surgery.
“Ever since the first surgery, we had known he had a valve that leaked,” said Orr’s father, Matt.
Chaz, however, started having breathing problems last spring. He was fatigued and didn’t even want to finish a baseball game.
It was eventually determined he needed to have full cardiac bypass. The Orrs turned to the doctor who performed Chaz’s first surgery, Christopher Knott-Craig in Memphis, Tenn.
“From the day they said Knott-Craig was doing it, I was confident that he could do it and that I would come back,” Orr said. “I didn’t know this well, but I knew I was going to come back and be able to play again.”
The day was Oct. 12. The Orrs had a long drive to Memphis planned, but first they had a detour to Shawnee with Kailee, a junior, playing in the state championship softball game. The entire family watched her and the Warriors win the title, but did not waste time after the game.
They had to get Chaz’s heart better.
“We had just won state and it’s pretty surreal and we grab her,” Washington coach David Vallerand said. “It’s pretty rough because they’re going off, and they don’t know what the result is going to be and how it turns out.”
On Oct. 14, Orr was prepped for surgery, but his father had a surprise for him. A video of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops was recorded for the big Sooners fan and shown before the surgery.
Once the surgery was finished, Orr was told it would take 10 weeks to recover. Nearly eight weeks later, he was cleared to return to the basketball court, where he played for Washington’s junior varsity team.
“He’s a kid that’s always wanted to be athletic, and he was feeling good,” Matt said.
‘IT’S JUST A MIRACLE’
Since his athletic comeback, Chaz Orr says he doesn’t notice his heart anymore and feels better than before.
Now full of energy, Orr has become the life of the team, even as a freshman.
“These guys, they razz him more than anything,” Vallerand said. “They just know it’s Chaz Orr; he can play and he can contribute.”
There have been big moments for Orr, too.
He hit a big three-run homer against Heavener early in the season and pitched nearly five shutout innings in relief during the Warriors’ 18-16 comeback victory.
He also nearly pitched a complete game against Class 6A’s Mustang.
“It’s just a bonus,” Orr said. “It’s crazy that I’m still here and be able to play on the varsity and be able to contribute and help the team win in any way I can.”
The Warriors are 7-9 on the year, with each win having Orr’s mark on it.
“He’s obviously a strong, young kid who has handled it well,” Matt Orr said. “You can’t take that for granted.
“It’s awesome to be able to see him out there performing.”
The Washington players and coaches certainly don’t take that lightly seeing Orr on the field after what he had been through.
And he’s certainly happy to be on the field every day.
“It’s just a miracle,” Chaz Orr said. “For them to be able to cut me open and repair everything and me be able to come out here and play to the best of my abilities, it’s a miracle.”