Why Van Buren senior Tanner Callahan is eager to experience winning another championship

Leland Barclay
Special to the Times Record

Tanner Callahan had a couple of different perspectives on Van Buren’s first baseball conference championship in 26 years.

First, the senior catcher was part of an American Legion state title by Fort Smith Sportsman last summer, which far exceeds the feeling of a conference title.

“I know how it feels to win a state championship, and that one wasn’t nearly as major,” Callahan said. “It would be really nice to win another one.”

Second, Callahan appreciates the opportunity of just playing baseball since he didn’t even know if he could play again after undergoing surgeries in each of the last two years.

“That did pop into my mind, a lot,” Callahan said. “Especially when they said I would have to have another one, but if it’s God’s plan that I don’t play baseball anymore, then I’ll find something else to do with my life.”

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Callahan was diagnosed with Chiari malformation, a rare congenital condition in which the brain tissue extends into the spinal canal that causes severe headaches and neck pain, which required surgery during his sophomore year.

“I was going to have it in the middle of my sophomore season, but I was getting to play a little bit so I waited it out,” Callahan said. “I had it the day after school ended my sophomore year.”

That surgery didn’t work as planned and a second surgery was needed.

The Pointers opened the 2020 season with nine wins in their first 10 games with high expectations, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the season was canceled by the Arkansas Activities Association. Callahan then had the second surgery immediately following the cancellation in the middle of March.

“They kind of talked about it,” Callahan said. “They said it was a slight possibility. After the first one when they did the bare minimum, the recovery wasn’t that bad. After about three weeks, I was wanting to play baseball.

"Then the second one, they did a lot more. It was a lot worse. I was in the bed for three weeks.”

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Callahan, who will play at Connors State College in Warner, Oklahoma, recovered in time to join Sportsman in the summer.