Competing in sports at the high school level is no easy feat, but for one Louisiana high school student becoming eligible to compete has been a challenge in itself.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association ruled that 18-year-old Sean Thiel was ineligible to participate in spring baseball this season after missing too many days of school. The absences were caused by a rare medical condition from which Thiel suffers known as achalasia. The disease affects the esophagus’s ability to move food to the stomach, which led to a number of absences — including a surgery at the Mayo Clinic to stabilize his condition in early March.
According to The Advocate, after filing a federal suit against the LHSAA March 3, Thiel was finally granted a hardship waiver that allowed him to begin playing earlier this month.
"I commend the LHSAA for taking another look at this. We have no ill will. We're just happy they re-evaluated the situation," Michael Thiel told The Advocate Friday. "It is a positive story for a change. It's the right result.”
"It reinforces your faith in humanity."
Hardship waivers are used in high school sports to help make a student eligible for competition if he has a condition that causes him to not meet the requirements for eligibility. As a part of the lawsuit that brought Thiel’s situation to the LHSAA’s attention, Thiel’s family claimed that the LHSAA had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not allowing Thiel to play baseball even though he met the requirements for a hardship waiver.
After Thiel became eligible to play, Thiel’s family dropped the suit March 18.
As part of the agreement with the LHSAA, Thiel — a high school sophomore — must meet all future eligibility requirements if he wishes to continue playing high school sports in his junior and senior seasons.
Thiel’s father told The Advocate his son has already recorded a couple of hits in two games since his reinstatement on the team.