Ever since I can remember, my dream has been to play in the MLB. Endless hours of practice, countless bullpen sessions, all done in order to pursue this dream. Growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, the weather only gives you 5 or 6 months to play ball outside on a grass field. Not only is your time limited but the playing surfaces in the city are not in pristine condition. Playing with weeds growing in the infield, grass reaching all the way up to your shin, and throwing on mounds that have 6-inch holes where your front foot is supposed to land.
Like every athlete, you are always working to perfect your craft. For me, that was throwing a baseball. I’ve had the same pitching coach since I was 13 years old (Ace Adams) and he played a huge part in getting me to where I am. Everything was going so smoothly until I reached my junior season in high school. Like most sports, junior season is the most vital season when it comes to eyeing the minor leagues. Although I had already committed to play baseball at Virginia Tech, junior year is crucial in determining if you have what it takes to forgo your college career and enter the professional level.
I had worked tirelessly all winter to be the best I could be on the mound. Whether it was lifting weights, pitching lessons, or just practice in general, it all was coming together until April 17th 2013. I was in the third inning of an away game at Bedford High School when all of the sudden… POP! My UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) had torn in half. For those who do not know what a UCL is, it is one of the ligaments in your elbow that basically keeps the Ulna bone and Humerus bone together. I felt the pop, I even heard the pop, and being a 17-year-old kid who thinks he is invincible, I tried to throw another pitch and once it left my hand, it went about 30 feet and rolled to home plate. My elbow felt as if someone took a knife and jammed it into my elbow joint. I immediately looked at my Dad who was sitting in the stands and didn’t know what to do. I knew it was bad, I knew my season was over. What came next was the most challenging 15 months of my athletic career.
I went to see an orthopedic specialist at Mass General Hospital where I was told I would need Tommy John Surgery. Once I heard those 3 words all the thoughts of “would I ever be the same pitcher again? Would I still be able to play college baseball?” flew through my mind. I knew it would be a long road ahead of me but after talking to my surgeon, I realized that it was in my hands to ensure the success of my recovery through my rehab program.
The surgery was a success, now came the real work, rehab. Four times a week, I made my way into Downtown Boston to complete the vigorous rehab work. At first it was very tedious and slow going. Stretching the new ligament, getting my full range of motion back and so on. After that, it was a lot of strengthening. Not of my elbow but of the muscles around it, my forearm, shoulder, bicep etc. I had put in the work for 15 months and now it was go time again. I still remember the first time I threw to live hitters again; it was nerve-wracking. I knew I did everything right but what if something beyond my control was going to happen, What if I missed something? Again, thoughts of doubt were whirling through my head but I had to block out the noise and do what I’ve been doing my whole life, just pitch; and I did just that.
College included some of the best times of my life, meeting unbelievable people, traveling across the country while playing the game I love. Nonetheless, once June 2017 rolled around I felt it was time to move on. Draft day came and it was honestly the longest 6 hours of my life. Dozens of phone calls, and countless minutes spent checking the clock. Then the call came in. The Cincinnati Reds had selected me in the 9th round 2017 Amateur draft. All the doubts I experienced when I was a 17-year-old kid had disappeared, I knew that the work I put in throughout 2013 and 2014 had paid off. Although it was a very difficult experience, I know that it in the end made me a better athlete and made me realize how fortunate I am to be fulfilling my life long dream of becoming a professional baseball player.