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Teammates who survived Waukesha Christmas Parade together return to baseball field

Posted at 7:23 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 13:38:08-04

WAUKESHA, Wisc. — A powerful moment when two members of the Waukesha South High School Baseball Team, critically injured in the Waukesha Christmas Parade, made their return to the field.

Both were in the starting lineup Wednesday against South Milwaukee.

Erick Tiegs started on the mound as pitcher and Tyler Pudleiner was behind the plate as catcher.

“It’s really exciting to have made it to this moment,” Tiegs said. “I’ve worked really hard to get back into condition to play, and I know Tyler did too.”

“My physical injuries are mostly healed, but I am still dealing with the mental side effects, but being out here with Erick and my team is special, and it helps,” Pudleiner said.

In the little more than four months since the parade, Pudleiner recovered from internal injuries to his stomach and intestines.

Tiegs suffered a fractured skull and spine, broken ribs and a collapsed lung, and a broken femur and shoulder blade. His doctors cleared him for pitching last week, but he is still working with a physical therapist to return to batting and running.

Their moms know how lucky they are to get to see their sons play again.

“It’s definitely a full circle moment,” said Katti Pudleiner. “They were right next to each other in the parade and were lying in the street after the attack happened. They have been together through all of it and survived. They have come a long way.”

“It has taught us all to live in the moment and cherish everything,” said Jessi Tiegs. “We have been through a lot, but it has brought us all closer together, and I feel so blessed. I think of the Sparks family all the time. They did not get to bring both of their sons home, and I did, and sometimes you feel guilty about that.”

Jackson Sparks, 8, was the youngest of the six people killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade. His older brother, Tucker, was also injured but survived. They were walking in the parade with their baseball team.

Tiegs' younger brother, Tyson, was also in the parade but was not injured. Tyson searched the wreckage for Tiegs, and stayed by his side until help came.

“I couldn’t find him at first,” Tyson said. “It was very traumatic for everyone. It feels special to be here at his first baseball game pitching again, and to know he's back on his feet, playing the sport he loves.”

There were a lot of special moments at the baseball game. The Waukesha South High School Band performed the national anthem before the game Wednesday.

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