Favorite athlete: Stephen Curry
Favorite team: Golden State Warriors
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning the PIAA 6A state championship last year for baseball
Funniest thing that has happened competing in sports: My teammate high-fived the opposing team’s second baseman after hitting a double during the state championship.
Music on my playlist: Hip hop and Country
Future plans: Playing baseball at Penn State Harrisburg and studying business
Favorite motto: “Live every day like it’s your last.”
One goal before turning 30: Graduate college
By Mary Jane Souder
Laidback. It's one of the first words Mike Childs uses to describe Brian Reiner. Souderton’s baseball coach laughs as he recounts an anecdote confirming that even laidback might be an understatement.
A four-year member of the baseball program, Reiner was told the day before Souderton’s date with Central Bucks South in the PIAA Class 6A state title game last June that he would be starting at third base. Nothing unusual about that except for the fact that Reiner had not played third base the entire season.
“He’s very athletic, he works hard, but he’s very laidback,” Childs said. “So when you walk up to him and say, ‘Brian, you’re starting at third in the state championship.’ He’s like, ‘Okay coach, thanks.’”
“I knew I could play third base,” Reiner said. “Of course, I was very, very nervous about it.
“I played infield all of my life, but third base was never a spot I really played at. It felt really good to know he trusted me being there which helped a lot. I got in a lot of extra practice at third base the day before the state championship.”
Reiner proved worthy of the confidence Childs and his coaching staff had in him, playing a flawless third base in the Indians thrilling 6-3 come-from-behind win to capture the program’s first ever state title.
“In the game, I wasn’t nervous because I was too focused to even be nervous, but going into it, I definitely was,” Reiner said. “That game was the best moment of my life. I would do anything to do that again.”
“He did the job,” Childs said. “He does what’s asked of him and he never complains.
“He played multiple positions, and that’s what we relied on him for, especially last year, and he was always ready to jump into games any time we needed him.”
Reiner also was a major contributor on the basketball team and was the starting point guard on an Indian squad that – despite a myriad of injuries – earned a spot in the District One 6A Tournament.
“He was a rock for us through all the stuff,” Souderton coach Tim Brown said. “He’s a great ball handler and he’s great defensively too. Probably one of his best traits is getting on the glass and rebounding at both ends of the floor.
“We would put him on the other team’s best player a lot of times, and he took pride in shutting them down. He was invaluable for us throughout the season.”
There’s a lot more to Reiner’s story than the fact that he was a valuable member of two varsity teams. A whole lot more.
The day that changed everything
There was nothing unusual about that fall Saturday on Oct. 12. Reiner, along with some friends, attended Temple University’s football game at Lincoln Financial against Memphis State. The Owls upset the then-ranked 17th Tigers 30-28 in a thriller, but the game quickly became secondary when Reiner received a phone call from his mother that his father – scheduled to leave for China on business that day - had been taken to the hospital.
“The hospital said it was vertigo, so I was like, ‘Do you think I should come home? Is it something to worry about?’” Reiner said. “I didn’t really know what vertigo was.
“She said, ‘It’s fine. They’re just going to give him medication. He’ll be out soon.’”
But he wasn’t fine. Reiner called his mother later in the day and discovered his father, who wasn’t feeling well, was still in the hospital. At 10 o’clock that night, Reiner received another phone call.
“Mrs. (Beth) Anders called me for my mom because I guess she was too upset to say he had a stroke,” Reiner said of his neighbor and close family friend. “Rodney (Anders) came and picked me up and took me to the hospital. My dad definitely wasn’t in good shape at all.”
After a week’s stay at the hospital, Frank Reiner was released to go to Bryn Mawr Rehab.
“The second day in rehab he had a really bad stroke and then also had another one,” Brian said. “That’s when he almost died, and they had to do surgery to remove the blood clots. They were in a really bad spot which is why they were holding off that surgery as long as possible.”
The surgery was successful, but it marked the beginning of a long, long road to recovery, beginning at Jefferson Hospital where the surgery was performed.
“Mrs. Anders was a huge help during that time,” Brian said. “She took me and my sisters to the hospital almost every day because my mom would leave at eight in the morning, so she would get there at nine and would leave at 9:30-10 at night. My sister, who goes to the University of Delaware, came home.”
Brian’s father left Jefferson on Oct. 31, returning to Bryn Mawr Rehab where he remained until Dec. 22.
“I hated every second of it,” Brian said. “My dad was in really good shape before this happened – he worked out every day.
“He did everything at our house. If there was a problem with anything, he would do it himself before we ever paid somebody to come do it.”
Basketball a welcome respite
Basketball had always been Reiner’s passion. The Souderton senior – whose family lived in California from the time he was in second to sixth grade - had been playing the sport since he was in kindergarten. Upon his return to the area in seventh grade, Reiner began playing for the SHYBA travel team, eventually moving on to the Perkasie Knights on the AAU circuit.
“SHYBA is where I found a friend group that I’m still friends with now,” Reiner said. “I have loved playing basketball with all of them – Jack Towsen, Andrew Vince, Dom Natale and those guys.”
Reiner was one of five freshmen who made the jayvee team and saw limited action. As a sophomore, he was a key player on the jayvee, and junior year he earned a spot on the varsity.
“I got into some trouble in the beginning of the year, and it was rough because I had to grind to get my spot back that I wanted,” Reiner said. “I started three-quarters of the season junior year.”
Never has basketball been more significant than Reiner’s final high school season.
“Basketball definitely helped a lot with getting through everything,” he said.
“I remember when it first happened we had a fall league game the day after,” Brown said. “Obviously, we didn’t expect him to be there, and he said, ‘Can I come tonight?’ We were like, ‘Of course you can come tonight.’
“I think that showed he used basketball as his way to get away, and he put everything he had into our team and the season as his solace, as his place of peace. It was awesome to see him put any self desires he had away and put everything he had into what we were preaching as far as just being a team and being a family and doing everything for your teammates. He led by example.
“He was great for the younger guys to see and even his classmates. When they had small little problems and they’d go and see Brian Reiner busting his butt every day in practice and in games and doing everything he’s supposed to do, it puts everything into perspective.”
While Reiner put his heart and soul into basketball, his father was always in his thoughts.
“It was so hard - not having my dad at games was terrible,” he said. “He started coming to all my games once he got home.
“I remember we were playing at West Chester Rustin (over Christmas break), and he showed up at the game. That was the first game he came to that I didn’t know he was coming to.”
Reiner also had a Senior Night gift he will never forget.
“My dad actually walked out on his walker – at the time, he wasn’t really using his walker much,” Brian said. “He was mainly in the wheel chair.”
When it rains, it pours
Reiner’s final high school basketball season was not without its setbacks. For starters, he was sidelined for two-and-a-half weeks in December with concussion symptoms. It was one of a series of injuries to the veterans in Souderton’s lineup.
When Reiner returned to the lineup, he never left - until the final moments of the Indians’ playoff game against Upper Darby, the final game of their season.
“We knew he got hurt at the end of the game, and we took him out with four minutes left to go,” Brown said. “We thought it was just a sprain.”
It turned out to be much worse than that.
“I fractured my foot and my ankle,” Brian said. “I haven’t felt that upset because I hate crutches so much, and just the thought of our season being over and me being on crutches for the fourth time – honestly, I was so stressed and fed up and so angry.”
Reiner’s injury would have kept him off the field for Souderton’s first four or five baseball games. Those games never happened.
Baseball a magical journey
Baseball has always been right up there with basketball for Reiner, who has been playing the sport for as long as he can remember. He played soccer for two years in California and football in seventh grade when he returned to Pennsylvania.
“I liked football, but it took up way too much time,” Reiner said. “I just didn’t want to have to do that with baseball and basketball.
“I was always good at basketball, but baseball I didn’t start getting good at until seventh grade – I was really, really tiny for a long time. I always enjoyed playing baseball, and also, my dad loved watching me play. He loved baseball too.”
Reiner played for the PA Shockers and also Connie Mack for Souderton. He was one of three freshmen to earn a spot on the jayvee.
“We didn’t play at all except for Conlan (Wall), but actually, that was a really fun season because I really liked the team that we had, which was the same team we ended up winning states with – that jayvee team,” he said.
Sophomore year Reiner played only eight games before he was sidelined with a broken nose – which required surgery - and a concussion after getting hit with a line drive. He was cleared to start playing again, but that weekend fractured his ankle playing in an AAU basketball tournament.
As a junior, Reiner filled in at left field and center field for Luke Taylor and Jordan Morales when they were on the mound and closed out the dream season at third base in the state title win.
“I’ve never had more fun on a team, whether I was playing or not,” Reiner said. “Our bench was insanely fun, and I loved everyone on our team. You always have players that bring the team down with their energy when they’re not playing, but we didn’t have any of that. Maybe in the very beginning of the season, but everyone accepted their roles really quick.
“We didn’t just do stuff at baseball practice. A couple nights a week we would go to the batting cages – all of us – and just hang out there and hit. We would hang out on the weekends as a team – all of us. A lot of teams you have at least one or two people that don’t interact with everyone. The whole team was so close, and I think that’s what got us to where we were.
“Before the state championship game, (coach) Childs was crying when he was talking to us, and I think that showed how much he cared about the team and how special he knew we were. That was the best season of my life. I would do anything to have that team back.”
High school’s final chapter
With the cancellation of sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this spring did not exactly go as planned for Reiner or any seniors for that matter. Although he would have been sidelined for several games, Reiner – who will continue his baseball career at Penn State Harrisburg - was looking forward to his final high school season.
“A state championship would have been a little bit of a reach because we lost a lot of our pitching, but we still had Erik Ritchie, who is going to be insane next year,” he said. “I think we could have done a lot this year. It really sucked.”
Reiner – named a tri-captain – was penciled in to be the starting centerfielder and also would have seen action on the mound.
“He’s got speed, and he’s got athleticism, so he definitely was going to be one of the main pieces to the puzzle,” Childs said. “In the few weeks I had him this spring, you could see that he definitely matured. What happened to his father definitely has to be a life-changing event.”
Reiner’s father continues his long road to recovery. Recently, he was told he didn’t need to use the wheelchair anymore. Every morning Frank and his wife Laura go for a two-mile walk around the neighborhood.
“My dad has a belt with handles on the back of it, and the last two weeks once a day me and him have been walking around the house with no walker, and I’m holding him from the back,” Reiner said. “For the most part, he’s doing it all himself, which is really good.”
There’s no mistaking the impact the experience has had on Reiner.
“It changed me in so many ways, so many,” he said. “I’m not going to lie – I got in trouble every single year of high school, and I created a lot of stress for my coaches because they always had to deal with my crap.
“When it happened, I had to think about what’s important. I had do so much for my family, being with my sisters because we didn’t have any parents home every day. I think it really matured me a lot. In the past, I did a lot of stuff that my parents would never want me to do. I really got my act together. I was never going to see any type of trouble. How would that help with everything going on with my parents? They’ve got too much going on for me to act like that.
“It made me think a lot about how I acted and how my dad did almost everything here. He was a very handy guy. I realized I needed to step everything up and get my act together, stop getting in trouble and being stupid.”
The changes are not lost on his coach.
“The biggest thing that we saw from him was how he just became all in on basketball and all in on our team and our family,” Brown said. “I feel like with everything going on – we lost Andrew and Dom, but there was no time to feel bad for us or think about it in that perspective because Brian had real problems going on.
“Of course, we had problems with injuries and all that, but that’s basketball and that’s a game. Brian had life problems, and he was a leader for us, keeping his composure and doing everything he could on the court every day, so we just had to follow his lead.”
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