DENVER — Baseball is a sensory experience. The crack of the bat, the smell of fresh cut grass, and the can't-take-your-eyes-off-it sight of an amazing catch.
Tom Essig loved it all, but a hunting accident changed the way he experiences his favorite sport.
"This eye is completely gone, it's dead," Essig said pointing to his left eye.
He was turkey hunting in Nebraska with a buddy last Spring when the accident happened. As he crested a hill wearing camouflage from head to toe he heard the shotgun blast.
"The BB went into the membrane of my carotid artery, but didn't penetrate it," he said. "If it had, I wouldn't be standing here."
His life was spared, but after being rushed to a small town hospital, air-lifted to another, and then finally flown to Denver's UCHealth, he was on the brink of going blind.
His left eye couldn't be saved, but surgeons reconstructed his right one. Essig allowed himself just one day of negativity.
"You can't be negative," he said. "I took my day of crying and realizing the things I wouldn't be able to do that I always wanted to do with my kids, but I'm here."
Now, Tom is all about positivity. He's even turned his hunting accident into a bit of a punch-line.
Walking through security at Coors Field Tuesday he let the attendant know he could remove some things from his pockets, but others were a bit more permanent.
"I do have a cell phone," he said. "And about 80 BBs in my head."
Later, UCHealth got Essig and his family onto the field for batting practice. Charlie Blackmon surprised him for photos and autographs, and he couldn't help but crack a joke.
"Do any hunting?" he asked the Rockies' star center fielder.
"Yeah, a little," Blackmon replied.
"I used to," Tom replied before erupting with laughter.
He might never physically be able to see Blackmon make a diving catch in the outfield again, but Essig's other senses are still intact.
"Absolutely, smells and sounds," he said.
Those are all he needs to enjoy a day at the ballpark.
"Just couldn't be any better," he said. "Heaven on Earth is a ball field, right?"