Derry’s Bushey, Norwin’s Federovich overcame personal challenges to excel

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Saturday, July 4, 2020 | 6:31 PM


Aidan Bushey and Matt Federovich do not know each other, but they have more than a few things in common.

Both were star athletes at their respective high schools, Bushey at Derry and Federovich at Norwin.

They were playmakers and lead-by-example teammates.

Each will play a sport in college and each recently won an award from UPMC, Bushey as the male comeback athlete of the year; Federovich, the Jeff Boynton Scholarship.

Beyond all of that, though, they share an unfettered ability to put setbacks behind them. They left behind no trace of physical or mental hardship to those unfamiliar with their past, and they restored order in their lives with resilience.

Not that you would know anything ever was wrong.

Watch Bushey pull up for a jump shot in basketball, or rip a long iron over water, and you never would know he cheated death.

Put an eye on Federovich as he zings around the far corner in track, blasts a soccer ball into the net or delivers a flip throw-in back into play and the last thing you see is a lack of confidence, someone who struggled with anxiety and depression.

These two don’t seem to wander out of bounds much. When they have, they’ve hidden it well.

Bushey, who recently graduated from Derry and will attend and play golf at Cal (Pa.), was hit in the side of the head with a baseball during a youth league game when he was 10. He suffered a fractured skull and a subdural hematoma and needed five titanium plates and 20 screws to repair the damage.

When Federovich was a sophomore, he checked himself into a mental hospital as his melancholy state worsened and he struggled to find self peace.

Bushey was attempting to cover second base after a passed ball. The pitcher recovered the baseball and fired to second, but Bushey wasn’t completely in position to make the putout and the ball ricocheted off his glove and collided with his head.

“It came pretty close to my temple,” he said. “I may not have made it if it had hit me there. I remember everything. I remember my dad hopping the fence and running towards me. I am thinking, ‘Wonder what happened?’ Here, it was me.”

There was no blood, and he did not pass out but Bushey said his mother knew the injury was bad when she touched the side of his head and it became dented, indicating the severity of the fracture of the skull.

“It was scary,” Aidan said. “I had a four-hour surgery. But it’s not something I really talk about now.

“Baseball took everything away from me, but it also gave me everything.”

His hair now covers an arcing scar that goes from the top of his right ear to the top of his forehead. Coincidentally, one long stitch, known as a “baseball” stitch, was used to close the wound after surgery.

Before Federovich earned a track scholarship to Bucknell, he overcame personal demons.

“I had anxiety, depression and PTSD,” he said. “I am not going to lie: It was really rough. I realized I needed to get help. I didn’t have the proper coping mechanisms.”

Amazingly, Bushey returned to baseball a month later and played until his senior year, wearing a special “dome” covering on top of his cap.

This was the same kid who doctors thought would have to relearn basic motor skills and likely would have to give up sports.

“I wasn’t going to play at first. I was a little scared,” he said. “Then I was watching the (2011) World Series, and (the St. Louis Cardinals’) David Freese hit that (11th inning) home run to send it to a Game 7. I went running to my mom and she said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I told her I wanted to play baseball again.”

He went on to be Derry’s leading scorer in basketball for two seasons and helped lead the Trojans back to the WPIAL playoffs on the court and in golf.

“I gave up baseball, and that was one of the hardest things I ever did,” he said. “I will never forget the conversation I had with coach (John Flickinger). But if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had the time to put into golf.”

After regaining his confidence, Federovich blossomed into a terrific two-sport athlete. His openness to talk about a dark time has led to the formation of mental health awareness groups and potential legislation geared toward providing a better avenue for others dealing with similar strife.

“Sports was a great release for me,” Federovich said. “I had a lot of injuries, and when you’re an athlete and expected to be out there making plays and you can’t, that can have an effect on you. When I was injured, it was like I had my identity stripped from me. It’s like a culture shock.”

Federovich is working closely with Rep. George Dunbar on getting a bill passed to improve mental health training in schools and with prep-level athletes.

A recent Norwin grad, Federovich helped form a mental health awareness club and a symposium. The club sign-up sheet had 200 names.

“Hopefully, this can help others who are struggling with the same type of things,” Federovich said.

The Boynton Scholarship, named after the late Plum athlete who was injured and in a post-high school all-star football game and became paralyzed, ending his hopes of continuing his playing career at West Virginia.

He maintained a positive attitude and supported his alma mater, but he was involved in a car accident in 2013 and died the following January.

The scholarship that is going to Federovich is worth $2,020. Boynton’s jersey number was 20.

Bushey will get a $1,000 scholarship.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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