Updated: May 23, 2022
"I was in the first base box. It was the top of the first inning, we had one out, and runners on first and second. The batter had one or two strikes. Then, I heard a thud."
Kingsley Softball coach Jason Roelofs was retrieving a foul ball when he whipped around to see home plate umpire Jeff Brunner collapsed on the ground during their match against Benzie Central.
Coach Roelofs, alongside coach Matt Lyon and Kingsley parent Jason Hamilton, rushed to his side. Coach Roelofs and Jason Hamilton both serve as Grand Traverse County Sheriff's department deputies while Coach Matt Lyon is a sergeant with the Michigan Department of Corrections.
All three off-duty law enforcement officials immediately switched into work-mode to quickly assess the situation and administer aid.
"I got there, his eyes were glossed over, rolled back, and you knew it wasn't good," said Coach Lyon. "He stopped breathing and lost a pulse. Jason [Hamilton] was kneeling beside him and started chest compressions and I started opening up his airway."
Meanwhile, Coach Roelofs sprinted 200 yards to his patrol car, which he had driven to the softball diamond straight from a work meeting, to grab the AED machine inside.
"Halfway through the first set of chest compressions, Coach Roelofs got back with the AED, so we hooked it up, and the machine advised a shock. So we stepped back and then resumed CPR. Halfway through, Umpire Brunner began breathing again," said Coach Lyon.
The coaches say that it was less than four minutes between Umpire Brunner's fall and revival. As they waited for the ambulances to arrive, he even began speaking to them. He was transported to Munson and deemed stable by that evening.
Today, Umpire Brunner is alive and recovering thanks to the quick actions of our Kingsley hometown heroes.
Coach Roelofs says it was divine intervention that he happened to have his patrol car and the AED inside onsite during that game.
"I'm not saying any of us are heroes or anything like that, but we were gifted with the ability and with the proper training. Right place, right time, right equipment, right training. The rest of it is kind of not our will, it just sort of happened. The patrol car was there for a reason, and thank goodness."
Deputy Jason Hamilton credits the rescue in part to his chemistry with Coach Roelofs, who he has worked with at the Sheriff's Department for years.
"We work really well together. We've worked the same shift for probably 10 or 12 years, with the same days off, the same coverage. We've been on multiple calls together. He looks at me, I look at him, you just don't need to say anything. We know."
Coach Jamie Hawkins is thankful to his team for staying calm during the chaos at that game.
"They handled themselves in a way that was absolutely calm. How they handled it was on their own, deciding to go behind the dugout and start praying. They just decided the one thing that they could do was get together and they could pray."
The day after the incident, athletic director Mitch Miggenburg ordered AEDs to be placed at Kingsley's sports fields.
The Traverse City Record Eagle shared a follow up article in late May documenting Umpire Brunner's reunion with the coaches who saved his life. Read it here.