Nearly eight months after Kevin Jordan received a life-saving kidney donation from Tom Walter, his baseball coach at Wake Forest (SI, Feb. 21), the redshirt freshman outfielder was set to return to the diamond when fall practice began on Tuesday.
"Just being my old self around teammates and having a real college experience, it's been fun," says Jordan (above, right, with Walter), who has regained his energy and 35 pounds since his Feb. 7 surgery at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital. "Now the work starts."
A sweet-swinging lefty from Columbus, Ga., who was drafted in the 19th round in 2010 by the Yankees, Jordan battled an autoimmune disorder called ANCA vasculitis, which required daily dialysis and drained him "physically, mentally and emotionally."
Fully recovered, he still must take antirejection medication for the rest of his life. He'll also wear a rib protector to cushion the new organ from blows such as headfirst slides.
"It's easy to tell someone not to do that, but instincts take over," says Walter, 43, who overcame his own postoperation fatigue by late May. "We're going to push Kevin this fall to see how we have to handle him in the spring. We think he could be an everyday starter."
JOHN BAZEMORE/AP (WALTER AND JORDAN)