UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Challenges are nothing new for Aaron Graves.

Doctors told him he wouldn't live one month past emergency brain surgery as a teenager. But here he is.

The newly named head baseball coach at the number one ranked varsity team in the country, Riverdale Baptist School in Upper Marlboro, MD.

His survival story is nothing short of a miracle.

The Gwynn Park graduate played baseball from a young boy and said he was very good.

"I had scholarship offers, pro teams looking at me. I was one of those egotistical kids. Once the letters started coming in, I had a huge ego," Graves said. "Fortunately, and unfortunately, I sustained an injury that ended my career."

That injury changed everything. Now, Graves coaches the game he loves. but even that almost didn't happen.

A cancer scare and near death experience altered the course of his life.

In July of 1990, a bad headache sent him to the hospital in Maryland. Doctors there noticed a mass on the base of his brain and immediately flew him to Children's Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

From there Graves said tests revealed a rare form of brain cancer. He recounts that doctors gave him a month to live. He had surgery on July 30, 1990.

"During surgery, I had dream of bright lights, white clouds and a golden gate. I saw a man looked like my grandfather and my uncle who'd passed. I see their faces. I see the gates start to open," Graves said. "The next thing I know I'm in a room with tubes coming out of me. My neurosurgeon came in and said 'did you have a dream?' I told him what the dream was. He turned to parents and said I was clinically dead for one minute 47 seconds. They had to revive me."

He has a visible scar on the back of his neck that is a reminder of what he's been through and why he's still here.

"To show people, you think you have it hard, you think you had rough? You haven't walked a mile in my shoes or in somebody else's who had a little bit more challenging, more difficult things going on in life than you do. That's why I'm still here," Graves said

Aaron Graves with players.jpg
Prince George's County baseball coach, Aaron Graves
Courtesy Aaron Graves

Graves is the first African American head coach in Riverdale Baptist's 41-year history. The significance of that is not lost on him.

"I go back to the Negro Leagues and 'you can't do this, can't do that because of skin color.' Well, you give us an opportunity and we can show you, just because we have melanin in our skin doesn't make us any less of a character type person to take on a situation," Graves said "I'm happy,I'm happy I know what I have on my shoulders and I'm ready to take it on."

Many of you know Aaron 'Herkules' Graves. That's his radio name.

He worked locally at WPGC radio in the early 2000's and is now on SiriusXM's "The Heat" channel.

Graves will head up Riverdale Baptist varsity workouts which begin next week.