Robert Lewis, Jr., a longtime advocate for urban youth, received one of the greatest honors a Massachusetts resident can get last Friday: the chance to throw the first pitch at opening day of Fenway Park.

As Lewis threw out the pitch, alongside Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Red Sox fans throughout the state celebrated the beginning of a long delayed Red Sox season and a small taste of normalcy. The night resonated with deeper significance for Lewis, as he was celebrating still being alive. Months earlier, Lewis nearly died from COVID-19.

In March, Lewis was celebrating his birthday when he began to feel feverish and short of breath. He went to Boston Medical Center, where he was told he needed to be intubated.

“I was rolled upstairs, they hooked up the IV, then they actually told me they were going to sedate me,” he told Greater Boston host Jim Braude on Monday. Lewis woke up 12 days later.

It was only until later that his family told him how dire his situation was, Lewis said. “There were days that they talked to the doctor and they weren’t sure if I was going to make it or not,” he said.

The virus ravaged Lewis’ body, he said, rendering him unable to even touch his nose when he was released from the hospital. He required intensive therapy at Spaulding Rehab to remember how to do everyday tasks.

“I had to learn how to re-tie my sneakers, how to brush my teeth. I had to relearn how to walk, get my strength back, and how to do all this without being on an oxygen tank,” he said.

In the meantime, protests for racial equality in response to the police killing of George Floyd broke out across the country.

Despite a brutal recovery process, Lewis, the founder of The Base, a local program that uses baseball, education and career resources to help mostly Black and Latino kids excel, hardly skipped a beat and went right back to supporting the vulnerable communities around Boston.

"The lives of our young folks in our community are at stake, and we are going to do our part and continue to strive and push forward because they deserve a better today, and we have to make sure that tomorrow is going to be an even greater tomorrow,” he said.