DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In the springtime, the Embry-Riddle University baseball team can be found on the diamond.
But then they were thrown a curveball.
The four athletes were on hole six at Pelican Bay's Golf Courses when it happened. John Devine, a senior and right fielder, was about to hit the ball when his teammate Cody Forster heard something in the water.
"I just heard a splash in the water, wasn't sure what it was. And I looked over and I see a little way down, there (are) blades sticking out of the water and a tire."
It was a lawnmower.
“I kept thinking to myself, there’s a guy under here and he’s going to drown, and it’s going to be my fault,” said Josh Reynolds, a first baseman and sophomore.
Forster, who plays shortstop on the team, sprinted 75 years to the canal.
"Cody didn't even hesitate; he did an Olympic dive into the water," Devine said.
And like true teammates, when Forster jumped in, they all jumped in.
At 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 260 pounds, Reynolds is the biggest player on the team. He’s also a record-holder in the weight room. But when he first tried to lift the half-ton lawnmower, it wouldn’t budge.
That's when he felt someone grab his arm.
"I think that was the first time I ever felt God in my body, when I felt his hand," Reynolds said. "It was like a warmth came over me and just the strength to get it up."
Eventually, the face of Paul Piloto, a father of four, came to the surface.
“There was a lot of fear in his eyes,” Reynolds said. “That will probably stick with me forever, getting him up and seeing his face break the water. He was eyes wide open, coughing up water.”
Once all four Eagles could get their arms under the mower, Piloto was finally free.
"He was saying he was probably five seconds away from passing out and already said his mental goodbyes to his family and children," Forster said.
After catching their breath, they walked off with a victory they'll never forget.
“It really shows you how you can’t take anything for granted,” said Mike Lawson, a second baseman and senior. “Every morning you wake up, you’ve got to thank God that you’re awake.”
The players said they didn’t even think about their cellphones or clothes, or even gators in the water, before they dived in.
Piloto is doing fine and didn’t go to the hospital to be checked out. His family is now permanently on the baseball team’s guest list.
© 2020 Cox Media Group