Thursday, August 19, 2010 11:10 am
By Miss Chatter
Every season, the Nationals lose several players to the variously numbered days disabled lists and this year has been no exception. Alternatively, injured players will try to play through their pain and not let on something is bothering them, a practice that is admired in some circles for the "old school toughness" of it and despised in others for the harm a player not at 100 can do to their team. Also, while the team works as a group both contributing their parts to wins and losses, when one error occurs that can cost the team a win, other position players watch helplessly, yet still support their teammates. I have now experienced these phenomenon first hand. MissChatter is officially on the DL.
I'm typing this up with my left (glove) arm in a sling, elephant strength Ibuprofen in my system and a ziploc baggie of ice and water resting on my left shoulder -- until it falls off (the baggie, not the shoulder). I don't have the MLB luxury of instant MRIs, custom attached ice wraps, masseuses or trainers. I have to wait two weeks to see an orthopedic specialist to find out the fate of my shoulder. Luckily it happened on the last (losing) play of the 2nd game in a double header, so I didn't have to answer the question "could I play through it?" The answer would have been, and two days later still is, a handy "Heck no!"
I planted myself in right field through two softball games, one being a rain postponed makeup game which ended up playing out under the lights well after nightfall. With all right handed batters on the opposing team, nary a ball had been hit my way through both games. I watched with awe as our left fielder caught nearly every fly ball sent his way. We were tied up in the last inning with the home team up to bat. I watched helplessly as errors by our infielders allowed runners on base that should have been outs. Then it happened. I watched in horror as a screaming grounder was hit down the right field line past first base. This was my moment - I'd snare that ball, hit the cutoff man, who would fire to home and get the out. Hopefully. Then the game wouldn't be lost on a play by me.
The fluorescent green orb was well into foul territory by the time my sprint caught up to it. As I reached down and it slipped into my glove, I stopped my sprint. My non-cleated running shoes decided to lose their grip on the slick grass just beginning to dew over. I knew as I started to go down that I would lose precious seconds I needed now to stand up and throw, but darnit, I was not going to lose that ball and make a fool of myself too! I held my arm out extended with the ball in the glove as I went down on that arm, felt something in my shoulder pop and a searing pain, but still stood to throw, albeit shakily, to the first baseman as I watched the winning walk-off run score. Last play of the game, the only ball hit my way, disappointment washed over me and I then went down in extreme pain. Visions of the scores of sliding diving catches I've seen MLB players make danced through my head and I wondered how they do that without hurting themselves.
Based on those memories, I initially I convinced myself I merely strained it and would be fine the next day, but when I could barely stand the pain of sitting in the car, my husband detoured to the ER on the way home.Two hours and an x-ray later, I learned I did not break my collarbone as they suspected, but rather separated my shoulder from it, likely tearing the ligaments that connect the two together. I've also learned this is a common softball injury -- probably because mere mortals don't practice how to fall catching a ball or something. Of course, I don't have a contract of millions or incentives enticing me to play and my team doesn't really need me unless they're short a girl, so I have no desire to attempt to play through it until I find out if this will require surgery or not. My throwing arm is still good, but I'd be mighty hesitant to risk a limb to snare a close ball. I'm not even sure I could swing even the lightest of aluminum bats. All I've been left with is envy at the photograph-like memory of Matt Capps with his pitching arm expertly ensconced in a bulky ice wrap after the last game he pitched for the Nationals while I struggle with keeping a bag of ice on my shoulder and trying not to move my arm.
I have a new appreciation for the dilemma players face, both trying to play through nagging injuries such as Josh Willingham did with his knee. It was clear to me he couldn't run fast in the last game he played, but what appeared as a "lack of hustle" in the outfield turned out to be a bum knee, which begged the question, "why was he playing then?" Because if he didn't, he may have been perceived as a wimp. "Rub some dirt it in and get back out there!" is the general attitude in baseball. Remember Ryan Church and his broken toe? Plus, no player wants to be tagged with the label "injury prone" like Nick Johnson, whose myriad injuries left him frequently on the DL really seemed fluky.
So now I join the ranks of pitchers with "shoulder tightness" and while I have the luxury of being as cautious with mine as the team is with Stephen Stasburg, I have a new appreciation for the aches and pains ball players go through and play through and the dilemmas they face. Next stop, rehab! Nats fans wonder if Jesus Flores, who has rehabbed his shoulder for quite some time now, will ever return to the backstop. I now get to experience the thrill of that long road back myself. Will I be forgotten with my name only surfacing when a new player uses my jersey number? Or will I make a spectacular comeback? I think I may retire at this point and the up and comers play while I switch back to swimming. I still maintain hope Flores will return, however.