Wheelchair-Bound Ian Fair Signs NLI to Northeastern


Ben Brownsword

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Ian Fair signs his letter of intent in the Walpole High library (photo/ Maeve O’Connor).

Ian Fair signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball for Northeastern University on November 11. The signing was just like any other, except for one thing: he was in a wheelchair.

Five days before Fair signed his NLI, he and Walpole faced off against Medfield in the Division 2 South Sectional Quarterfinal. The Rebels earned a #7 seed in their bracket after a 9-2-7 regular season, and Fair was named to the All-Eastern Mass first team after notching 10 goals and eight assists.

With the game scoreless with 20 minutes left in regulation, Fair took a ball near the top of the box, turned around two defenders and fired a curling shot into the net.

The highlight reel goal looked like it would be enough to seal a win for the Rebels, until Medfield scored a shocking goal with 20 seconds left to force overtime. In overtime, Fair was a menace to the Medfield defenders and threatened the goalie several times. With three minutes remaining in overtime, he had a collision with the goalkeeper and went down injured.

The severity of the injury was immediately evident in the players’ faces, as teammates and opponents alike wore expressions of shock after seeing him.

“As soon as I saw it, I thought ‘that’s a compound fracture.’ I was in shock.” said Fair. After an ambulance took Fair from Turco Field, Walpole appeared shaken and eventually lost heartbreakingly in penalty kicks.

Although the story ended for the Walpole soccer team that night, Fair’s story was only beginning. After an x-ray revealed that he had broken both his tibia and his fibula, he was slated for surgery the next day to reset the bone and place a rod in his leg to stabilize the bones.

“I actually caught a break because my bones didn’t break the skin, which would have been much worse,” said Fair.

Four days after his surgery, Fair returned to school the following Friday to sign his NLI for Northeastern. He was accompanied by his parents, Athletic Director Ron Dowd and soccer Head Coach Lee Delaney.

Fair chose Northeastern over a litany of other interested Division 1 programs such as UNC-Asheville, Georgetown and Fordham. “I liked the campus and the coach and how close it was to home,” Fair said when asked why he chose to play for Northeastern.

Fair has played on the varsity baseball team, along with the varsity soccer team, since his freshman year. On the baseball team he has started as the shortstop since his sophomore year, and he has rotated between the lead-off spot and the clean-up spot in the batting lineup over the past three years.

In 2015, Fair batted an impressive .360 average, and his play throughout the season was awarded with a spot as a Bay State all-star. 

“He’s a dynamite player,” said Lee Delaney, his soccer coach. “He can do it all on the field.”

With a five month recovery ahead of him, Walpole is hoping Fair wins the race against time and returns to play Walpole baseball one last time in his senior year.