This story was updated Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at 9:23 p.m. with more information.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The four-inch scar that runs just below his left shoulder is a constant reminder of what he's experienced and what was nearly taken away.
The attitude Trey Mayfield brings every time South Pittsburg's baseball team takes the field is far more noticeable. And it's that enthusiastic approach that is a constant reminder to his teammates of how the game should be played.
Three years ago, during a routine physical before football season, Mayfield was diagnosed with a heart murmur. Further testing revealed the teenager had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — which basically meant a thickening of his heart muscle, making it harder for his heart to pump blood.
"That's one of the hardest things I've ever had to sit through, just being worried and not knowing what the future was for our son," said Mayfield's dad, Roger Dale. "We knew that heart disease runs in my wife's family. Her dad died when he was only 28 from heart failure and she has a pacemaker, but we were hoping our kids wouldn't be affected. Sitting there listening to what the doctors were telling us, there was just a lot of very scary scenarios.
"We're proud of him every day. Not many kids could go through what he has and be able to keep the positive attitude, but his light shines every day for everybody else to see."
Beyond the immediate fear for his long-term health, the three-sport athlete was also devastated when doctors told him he would have to give up all sports. Eventually, he was allowed to return to the baseball field, which softened the otherwise harsh report.
Last spring, during a routine six-month checkup, Mayfield was given more alarming news when an MRI showed excessive scarring around his heart, which meant a pacemaker would have to be surgically implanted in his chest.
Once again his baseball career — a sport he has loved since he was four years old — was put in doubt. But he was eventually cleared last summer, although his doctors instructed him that he could no longer play catcher and would need to avoid contact.
"When I first got the news it scared me a lot. But it did help that my mom has gone through the same thing and she was able to help me know what to expect," said Mayfield, who has allowed one earned run in 20 innings pitched this season. "The first thing I noticed when I got to come back was I had more energy and didn't get tired as easy.
"I've always loved baseball so to get to be back out there with my brothers on the field was a huge deal. Now I play every game like it could be my last because I know it can be taken away at any time. Just getting to experience this season on the team has made me so happy."
After scoring 24 runs in their last three games, the Pirates are back in the state tournament for the second time in four years and fifth time in program history. The Pirates were beaten in Tuesday's opening round, 8-2, by Moore County and will now play in Wednesday's losers bracket at 11 a.m. (Eastern).
Moore County jumped in front with two runs in the first inning then added three in the fourth and two more in the fifth to take command. South Pittsburg, which managed just four hits, left the bases loaded in the third and failed to score until the seventh on Hunter Powers' RBI single.
Mayfield — as he has been throughout the season — will be ready for whatever situation he might be called upon to contribute.
"It's kind of amazing," said Pirates coach J.D. Genter. "It's a blessing to watch what he does and how he's become a leader just by his attitude and approach every day at practice and games. We're going to need him on the mound this week because when Trey pitches you know you can count on him to throw strikes. But even when he's not on the field, just the positivity he brings every day is huge.
"Trey is just thankful to be out there enjoying the game and that's what so many kids don't do these days — just have fun. Just enjoy the time you have to be out on the field playing together. So if we ask him to field fly balls in the outfield or play second base or whatever, he just grabs a glove and runs out to do it with a smile. You wish every kid had that approach."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.