8-year-old in Warner Robins saves teammate from drowning

WARNER ROBINS — Ontee Biggs, an 8-year-old who played catcher for the kid-league baseball Yankees here in the spring, saved his best grab of the season for the team-banquet pool party.

Saturday evening, Ontee noticed teammate Chris Hobes struggling to stay afloat in the deep end of the pool in Ontee’s backyard near Feagin Mill Road. The party had barely started and Chris, who can’t swim, hadn’t been in the water 5 minutes when he lost his footing and slipped into water that was over his head.

“I saw white foam coming out of his mouth and nose,” Ontee, 8, said Monday. “I thought he was just playing. Then I just pulled him over to the steps and the coach took him out.”

Chris, who spent two nights at a Macon hospital, went home Monday and is doing fine. A few hours after arriving home, he was playing video games on his uncle’s cell phone and, after that, balancing video-game boxes on his nose.

When Ontee dropped by his house off Watson Boulevard to visit, Chris, who played shortstop and is a third-grader at Pearl Stephens Elementary School, gave his teammate a hug. Later he told Ontee, a third-grader at Lake Joy Elementary School, “Thanks. Thanks for saving me.”

Ontee later said he wasn’t a hero or anything. But, he added, “I’m not gonna let anybody die.”

Chris and Ontee played for the 7- and 8-year-old Yankees in the Warner Robins Recreation Department’s coach-pitch league. At their end-of-the-season get-together Saturday, Chris’ aunt, Osquita Bishop, helped perform CPR on her nephew when he was pulled from the water.

“I shook him and he didn’t respond,” Bishop said. “His eyes were just fixed. ... Then I saw his eyes roll in the back of his head. I could hear the water in his chest. He finally let out a gulp of water and screamed ... a terrifying scream.”

Bishop said that later, after paramedics arrived and Chris calmed down, the boy told her, “I thought I was gonna die in there.”

“He said that I saved him,” Bishop said, “but I corrected him. I said if it wasn’t for Ontee none of us would have known he was in trouble. I’m just glad Ontee was in the pool close by, because who knows what could have happened just a couple of seconds longer.”

LaTanya Mathis, Chris’ mother, said her son told her he walked into the pool “and that he was walking around and he went a little too far out and he ended up in the deep end.”

“Once he realized he had went too far, he said he tried to swim back, but he doesn’t know how to swim,” she said.

Chris’ uncle, Calvin Mathis, who coached the Yankees, was grilling burgers near the pool when his nephew was hauled out of the water. He ran out to the street to flag down the police.

“That’s my little player!” he said when they arrived. “I told the police, ‘Please, that’s my star player!’’’

Chris, who also plays football and basketball, was the Yankees’ slugger. He socked an inside-the-park homer late in the season.

“I kept on running home,” Chris recalled Monday. “It was easy.”

He plans on taking swimming lessons soon.