David Adam

Near-death crash causes Quincy woman to change life's path

Katie Lentz
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 28, 2017 9:00 am Updated: Mar. 28, 2017 10:28 am

Katie Lentz's life changed forever after she was involved in a near-death accident on two-lane Mo. 19 near Center, Mo., on Aug. 4, 2013.

Just not in the way one might think.

Lentz was injured in a head-on crash with a suspected drunken driver. The incident gained international attention because Rev. Patrick Dowling unexpectedly showed up at the scene to absolve and anoint Lentz as her injuries were treated by emergency workers. Dowling's identity wasn't learned until nine days after the crash.

Lentz, a 2012 graduate of Quincy High School, suffered 15 broken bones, including two compound fractures, as well as internal organ damage and lacerations.

"Now I'm completely recovered," she said. "I have no lasting impact from the crash."

At least not physically.

While Lentz rehabbed, she admits spending many hours watching baseball games on TV. She says she fell in love with the sport in the second grade when she listened to games on the radio while riding in a pickup truck on the family farm with her father.

"I had always loved sports, but it was never my focus," she said. "But several teams sent care packages (when she was in the hospital), and it boosted my morale. Baseball gave me something to look forward to every day, and the kindness I was shown when I attended several games in my wheelchair had a huge impact on me."

At the time of the crash, Lentz was driving to Jefferson City, Mo., where she was doing an internship with a dental office. She also was the secretary of a pre-dental society. She had wanted to be a dentist ever since she started high school.

Five months after the crash, when she returned to the University of Tulane in 2014, she came to the conclusion she wanted to do something else.

She realized how much sports had positively impacted her life, before and after the crash.

"The athletic director (at Tulane) had heard about my story, called me and said, 'If you need anything when you get back, let me know,'" Lentz said. "So I called him and said, 'I think I want to work in sports.' I loved going to Tulane games, and it was something I wanted to be a part of."

She bounced around between different athletic departments, eventually doing on-field marketing work for several Tulane sports. Her work for the Green Wave earned her an internship during the summer of 2015 in the media relations department with the New Orleans Baby Cakes, a Class AAA baseball team in the Pacific Coast League.

"I really found my passion there," Lentz said.

From there, she was hired as a community relations intern with the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One month into her internship, the director of her department retired, meaning Lentz had to take on additional responsibilities.

She was a liaison to 24 Buccaneers Academy elementary schools, building relationships with administrators at the schools and facilitating many visits for them by escorting Buccaneers players and executing the NFL Play 60 programs. She also served as the sole facilitator for the Bucs Care Foundation donation requests, helping raise more than $40,000 for Florida nonprofits during her nearly six months with the team.

Her work in those two internships helped her land a job in New York with Major League Baseball as an administrator for the Baseball Assistance Team, which assists with financial, medical and psychological needs for former MLB and minor league players, managers, coaches and umpires, former Negro League and Women's League of Professional baseball players, employees of MLB and minor league teams and several other MLB properties.

She's 23 years old. She's been on the job in New York less than a month.

"If (the crash) hadn't happened, I'd probably be in dental school right now," Lentz said. "I don't know if I would be as happy as I am right now."

Lentz's remarkable success in sports was recognized last weekend by Front Office Sports, a Miami-based website that focuses on providing informational interviews with professionals in the sports business industry.

She and Chloe Barnes, another Quincyan, were named to the Rising 25, which recognizes 25 top sports business students and professionals from all across the country age 25 or younger.

That crash 31/2 years ago did change Lentz's life, but not in a way she ever imagined.

"I wouldn't wish what happened to me on anyone, but I believe I'm stronger and happier because of it," she said. "A lot of good came out of a really bad situation."