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My Athletic Journey Pt. 2

Spring 2016 : Shit Hits The Fan

Things then took a turn for the worst one afternoon jogging out of the library. I was late to catch the campus shuttle and sprained the hell out of my right ankle on a curb. This ankle has always been a problem for me, and I’ve sprained it countless times. I limped to my friend’s apartment and put it in the ice bucket. That weekend we flew to Western Kentucky for a series. I was limping around the airport, unsure if I would be able to pitch or not. My head coach asked if I would be able to pitch, and me being the competitor, I said yes. I had my trainer tape my ankle, tape over my ankle brace, and tape over my cleat for good measure. I also ate about 10 Advils pregame. I started to warm up for my outing and felt a weird sensation in my elbow. I had hyperextended my elbow on a throw, and shut it down. First my ankle, now my elbow… this sucks. I took a week off of throwing. Then, walking back from practice a week later, I stepped on a rock and re-tear everything in my ankle that was healing. I limped into the training room and iced for about 2 hours. A week later the ankle began to heal, and I was crushing my rehab program. I would have my ankle taped and braced in my cleat every day for practice. I returned to game action a few weeks later and had another stellar outing. Feeling like myself again, only to notice my bicep pain had returned, and now a new, deeper pain in my right hip. These both continued to follow me the rest of the season. 

I eventually was doing everything possible to mask the pain and be ready to pitch on gameday. I was determined to stick it out and make it through for the draft. I remember I had a crazy routine. I would take 2 muscle relaxers, eat about 8-10 Advils, fry my arm in the hot tub pregame, get to the field, spray this heavy duty Tiger Balm spray on my arm, wrap it in plastic wrap, put my long sleeve Under Armour on, and get loose. By game time, my arm would be so hot and burning that I couldn't feel any pain. This was not smart by any means, and I do not recommend anyone trying it. I was still somehow pitching well, but limping off and on the mound due to my hip pain. By the end of the season, my command issues had started to come back, and my velocity had begun to dip. We were having a fairly good season as a team, and qualified for the conference tournament. I got the start in Game 2 against Binghamton. Prior to the game I was stretching with the band I used all year long, and it snaps. Not a good sign. I did my routine and started the game sitting 90, feeling pretty good. Two pitches later, in the first at bat, I ripped off a slider and felt a “fart” in my elbow. The ball flew over the batter, and I had some weird sensation in my arm. I proceeded to walk that guy, and noticed my velo had dipped to 82-83. I had so much adrenaline going, that I didn't feel much at the time. I finished the inning throwing only fastballs and changeups. I got through the next inning as well, but my arm was killing me at this point, and I knew something was wrong. After that inning, I told my coach to get someone hot because I had injured my elbow. Sitting in the dugout, I knew I had blown my ucl, and my arm was literally on fire. It was one of the worst feelings I’d ever felt. I knew my draft hopes were shot, my arm / hip were in immense pain, and I was 6 hours away from home.

I remember getting back to the hotel room and burying my face in the pillow. How could this be? Why me? All that work for this? It all felt like a bad dream. I was so fucked. I called my parents on the phone. I went to my pitching coach’s hotel room and I literally couldn't find the words. I felt like I had let everyone down who believed in me.  I woke up the next day hoping my arm would feel normal but it was so inflamed I could literally couldn't bend my elbow. We proceeded to lose the next 2 games and got bounced.  I got back to school, packed all my stuff and went home to Maryland. 

I got the heck out of Albany as soon as I could. Packed up my Dad’s car with all of my stuff and started the 6 hour drive home to Maryland. During the car ride home the MLB draft was happening. I had already texted all the scouts to let them know what happened to my elbow. A few scouts responded with some encouraging words and others left me on read. I don’t blame them. I knew I was done for at least another year. I was checking twitter on the ride, seeing people get drafted who I knew I was better than. Kids were getting drafted who I had struck out and dominated against. It was a bitter feeling. Painful even. I got home, and got MRI’s on my elbow & shoulder right away. Then boom, confirmed what I already knew, torn UCL and torn Hip Labrum. 

I was either going to let this be the end of my athletic career, or the beginning to something long, painful, and unknown. There were no guarantees I would make it back to throwing. I had multiple years of rehab ahead of me. I was at the very bottom, looking straight up at a giant mountain of work to do. The safe thing to do would have been to not get surgery, hang up the cleats, and call it a career. But to be honest, giving up was not even a thought I had in my head. My parents didn't raise a quitter. I knew I was going to throw again, and I was going to do whatever it was going to take. I would rather suffer the pain of hard work and discipline, then have to deal with the pain of regret the rest of my life. At the time, I didn't realize what the impact of this decision was going to be. But now as I write this almost 8 years later, I can without a doubt say that this was spark that changed my life forever. We scheduled Tommy John Surgery in July, and the journey began.

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