Former teammate of Barney making strides

Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney is off to a sensational start in his rookie season and could be on his way to the All-Star Game in July.

But Rob Summers, one of Barney's best friends, is having an even better year, and Barney couldn't be happier for him.

Summers, a former teammate of Barney's at Oregon State, was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident in 2006. But now he's able to stand and move his hips, knees, ankles and toes, thanks to electrical stimulation of his spinal cord after a radical surgical procedure that's being hailed as a breakthrough for paralysis victims.

"He's the first in history to do this," Barney said. "Now he's moving his legs and everything."

The friends grew up near each other in Oregon and played at Oregon State in 2005 and '06, before a hit-and-run accident changed Summers' life. He was told he never would walk again, ending any chance of accomplishing his baseball dreams.

"It was tragic because he was just getting better and better," Barney said. "He worked harder than anyone and definitely would've had a shot playing somewhere."

In the procedure, an electric-nerve stimulator was implanted surgically in Summers' spine. When it's turned on, a panel of electrodes reactivates nerves in the spinal cord, giving Summers the ability to move his muscles. He can stand for four minutes at a time.

Barney got together with Summers during the Cubs' trip to Los Angeles in early May and said he plans to bring him to a game at Wrigley Field.

Barney said he has learned that "life is fragile" and you have to enjoy every day.

"It's crazy how your dreams change," he said. "When he first got hurt, he was like, 'I want to come back and I want to pitch in college again.' Then, four years later, it was like, 'Man, I'd really enjoy (playing) golf.' Now he's thinking, 'I just want to get to where I can go out there and use golf as therapy — stand there and just rotate and hit a golf ball.' His mind is getting better and better."

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