I woke up yesterday morning anxiously awaiting that 20 minute bus ride to the Peoria Sports Complex. During the last year, that trip down Bell Road is one that either involved In-N-Out, the mall, or some kind of trip to waste time. Yesterday however, that trip meant something to me. Not that In-N-Out doesn’t. I was rolling down Bell Road on my way to throw the first game in about a year.
I’ve put my cleats on while rehabbing my shoulder. But it didn’t feel the same as it did yesterday. I’ve worn my glove, grabbed a baseball, and played catch while rehabbing my shoulder. But it wasn’t to warm up for an actual game. The one thing that I’ve done thousands of times before is put on a professional uniform. However, it has never felt so rewarding as it did yesterday. Don’t get me wrong. It’s ALWAYS cool to be able to put on a professional baseball uniform. I’ve just never soaked it all in while doing it. I’ve never had appreciation, humility, happiness, and nervousness rush through my mind while putting on that uniform. I’ve never truly appreciated the opportunity for what it really is. Until yesterday.
As I’ve said before, you really understand how much you take for granted when something you love is taken from you. For me, having baseball taken away while rehabbing my shoulder has made me realize how much I took it for granted. Being on that mound in a game (whether extended spring training, rookie ball, high A, AA…) is the greatest feeling in the world. I felt like everything was going to be ok yesterday. I felt like, even if only for 15 pitches, that I had made it through the tough times. Yes, there is still a lot more hard work to be done. The first few outings are the true test of a rehabber’s hard work during recovery from shoulder surgery. Being on that mound yesterday and throwing pain free was a great start in showing everyone how hard I have truly worked. The first hitter I faced walked. Honestly, the pitches weren’t even that close to the plate. Jitters? Maybe. I got the second hitter to swing at a sinker inside, and he grounded into a double play. The third guy grounded out weakly to the first baseman. Three outs. End of the inning, right? Not in extended spring training with a rehabbing pitcher on the hill for the first time in a year! They want me to get close to my intended pitch count, so they threw another hitter up there. First pitch he saw was a fastball. He hit it off the end of the bat, but found its way up the middle for a single. I still had a few more pitches to work with, so they threw another hitter up there for me. Three pitches. All strikes. I got him swinging for strike 3 on a slider. I honestly forgot how great it felt to strike a guy out! That was the end of my first professional outing in a year. I walked a guy, struck a guy out, and even let my fielders get in on the action a little. Well rounded outing!
The next step for me is a 2 inning/35 pitch outing on Thursday. Each rehab outing after that will increase my pitch count in order to strengthen my shoulder. Once the training staff feels I am ready to handle a workload of at least 4 innings in a game, I’ll hopefully be activated. There is no telling where I’ll go once activated. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m healthy and pitching well, the opportunity to play in the big leagues will still be there. Thank you all for your kind words the last few days. It means a lot to me that you all would remember to wish me well, or pray, or keep me in your thoughts as I embark on this journey toward health. I truly appreciate each and every one of you. Until next time….