Why Carl Albert softball going to state is only part of its first-year head coach’s story

Why Carl Albert softball going to state is only part of its first-year head coach’s story

Jenni Carlson: When the Carl Albert High School softball team secured its spot in the state tournament last week, it was a happy moment for first-year head coach Garrett Wages. But it was made perfect because his wife and his infant daughter were able to be there.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Oct 12, 2023, 5:00am CDT

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Oct 12, 2023, 5:00am CDT

MIDWEST CITY — Garrett Wages smiled wide with the regional champion plaque in hand.

His grin had as much to do with the two gals next to him as the hardware. 

When Wages and the Carl Albert High School softball team secured their spot in the state tournament last week, it was a happy moment for the first-year head coach. It was made perfect by his wife, Reagan, and his baby daughter, Breckyn, being there.

They weren’t there the first half of the season.

In April, the Wages learned Reagan was at risk of losing their baby. Months of bedrest followed. Months of worry and prayer, too. They lost a baby a year ago, a little boy they named Rhett.

“I thought about just not even coaching the first year just because of everything that was happening,” Garrett said.

But Thursday afternoon, the entire Wages family will be there for Carl Albert’s opener at the Class 5A state softball tournament. How they got to this point is a testament to not only love and faith but also their community.

‘Just the best moment ever’

Reagan and Garrett Wages found out they were pregnant in Januar. Because they lost their first baby, Garrett told Reagan that he would go to every appointment, every check-up.

When they went to her 16-week appointment in April, the doctor came back with alarming news: Reagan was dilated to half a centimeter.

They might lose the baby.

Reagan had an emergency cerclage, a surgical procedure that stitches the cervix closed. Then, because she teaches children with severe and profound disabilities, the couple and their doctors thought it best that Reagan take leave.

Even with that, there were no guarantees. The surgeon who performed the cerclage said there was only a 50% chance that Reagan would make it to 24 weeks in mid-June.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, only about 11% of babies born at 22 weeks survive while 94% of babies born at 28 weeks do.

But when Reagan reached 24 weeks, the couple was ecstatic.

“All right,” Garrett remembers thinking. “Gave us a 50% shot. We made it.”

Their next goal was 28 weeks, but on July 9, Reagan started losing fluid and Garrett rushed her to OU Children’s Hospital. Her body was trying to go into labor, and even though doctors halted the process, it couldn’t be stopped forever.

“From July 9 on, we were just praying for just one more day, just one more day,” Garrett said.

Garrett and Reagan Wages learned in April that she was at risk of losing their baby. She spent nearly four months on bedrest, the last month of which was in the hospital, before giving birth to their daughter, Breckyn Drew. (Provided)

“Then it’s just a waiting game.”

Reagan was admitted to the hospital, and even though Garrett was there most of the time, softball practice was about to start. He talked to Reagan: should he take a leave of absence from coaching or step away entirely?

He had wanted to be a head coach for years — it runs in the family; his uncle, AJ Hinch, is the manager of the Detroit Tigers — and getting to lead a program at Carl Albert was almost too good to be true. It’s where he went to high school and played baseball.

“I don’t want you to give this up,” Reagan finally told him, “because this is something that you really wanted and you earned.”

Garrett talked to his bosses, Carl Albert principal Kristin Goggans and athletic director Mike Dunn, and they were understanding and supportive.

Same for Garrett’s assistant coaches, Tanner Wilcox and Abby Cox.

“And I would just have my phone on loud,” Garrett said of when he was at practice.

He hoped the phone would never ring because that was just about the only time he was away from Reagan. She reassured him that if she went into labor and the hospital called, everything would be fine. 

Still, Garrett worried.

“Being the first year, I was stressing about it,” said Garrett, who was an assistant for Carl Albert softball for three years before becoming head coach. “I had a lot of anxiety. And she was super helpful in that aspect, too, even though she’s going through all that.”

On July 29, Reagan went into labor.

After 36 hours, doctors decided to do a Cesarean section. Garrett was in the operating room with Reagan, and early in the morning on July 31, Breckyn Drew was born.

“Time of arrival: 4:21,” they heard the doctor say.

Then, there was silence. Garrett held his breath.

“We were just hoping to hear a cry,” he said.

Finally, they heard the little cry they’d been hoping for. Breckyn was alive. Her parents broke down.

“It was just the best moment ever,” Garrett said.

‘She’s definitely been a fighter’

Breckyn wasn’t out of the woods. Arriving two months early, she weighed only 3 pounds, 7 ounces. She couldn’t breathe on her own and couldn’t regulate her body temperature, so she was placed on oxygen and in an incubator.

But Reagan and Garrett got to hold her from time to time. Eventually, they started changing diapers and giving baths.

When Breckyn was a couple weeks old, Garrett called his mom, Angie.

“Mom, we just changed the nastiest diaper,” Garrett told her. “It took me three diapers and a whole package of wipes.”

“Garrett, she’s not even four pounds,” Angie said. “How did that happen?”

“I don’t know, Mom, but it did.”

Slowly but surely, Breckyn gained weight and started taking milk from a bottle instead of through her feeding tube. But she had good days and bad days, and with the school year starting — and Reagan having exhausted her sick days and not qualifying for the new state-mandated maternity leave for teachers — Garrett and Reagan worried about what to do.

They decided to ask for help. Garrett’s mom, a counselor and longtime employee in the Mid-Del School District, posted a request on Facebook: would anyone in the district be willing to donate some of their sick days to Reagan?

Though family and friends and so many others had already provided food and gift cards and prayers and words of encouragement, offers of donated leave flooded in.

“They’ve not had to go without a paycheck,” Angie Wages said. 

Garrett said, “It’s been awesome to have the Mid-Del family helping us out.”

After 43 days, Breckyn went home. 

From the time Reagan was first admitted to the hospital, it was 73 days. Two-plus months of stress and worry, prayer and gratitude, wonder and love. 

And yes, softball.

Garrett Wages says this first year as a head coach has been crazy. He has struggled from time to time, going from teaching to coaching to spending time at the hospital with Reagan and Breckyn. 

“I’d love to be there with (Breckyn), but (Reagan’s) kind of pushing me to go and do that stuff,” Garrett said. “She’s really understanding. She’s really awesome about that.”

The days were long, but when Reagan and Breckyn could finally start coming to Carl Albert games, Garrett finally felt like he could exhale. Like everything was complete and whole and just how it should be.

Breckyn even had a Carl Albert onesie for her first game.

“She’s gonna have the biggest story to tell,” Garrett said. “She’s definitely been a fighter.”

Safe to say, she takes after her parents.

Carl Albert High School coach Garrett Wages talks with his Titans softball team. (Jenni Carlson/Sellout Crowd)

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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