‘You’ll never throw again, you are done, certainly pitching isn’t in your future and most likely baseball.’ My heart plummeted when the doctor spoke those words to my son. I felt nausea come over me, my heartbeat quickened. Tears welled up and I refused to let them fall.
“Stay strong for Michael,” I thought to myself.
Then, words that blew me away came from my son, “Then I guess I learn to become left handed!”
The doctor said, “That would be extremely unlikely, it would be very hard to do.”
Michael replied, “Hard isn’t impossible and I am a baseball player!”
The doctor shook his head and walked out of the room. Our visit was over.
I was furious at this doctor and I could see the anger was just under the surface with Michael, but there was also a silent determination as we strode through the parking lot.
The tears came for both of us next to the car. We held each other and just let loose.
Michael’s next question was – how long until he could start throwing left handed?
How many of us, when confronted with what seems to be insurmountable odds, shut down or give up? How many of us let someone else write our story?
This was a couple of years back, and actually just one more in a series of doctors we had seen. We, of course then went to a different doctor, who then put Michael on a road to healing. But let me tell you, within a few short weeks, Michael was throwing left-handed and had power and control. His teammates were impressed to see him drill it out to the chest at 90 feet! I was proud, of course, but can’t say I was surprised. I had seen the look when he said that to the doctor. He would do it or die trying.
I have heard that Will Smith has said “If you and I get on treadmills at the same time, you will get off first, or I will die on it.” Michael has certainly adopted that mindset of not giving up.
Michael is a major league baseball player, he just isn’t old enough yet, and isn’t on a team. But he sees it in his mind, and it is obvious to those around him that there is something different about him – he isn’t just the average teen boy baseball player.
When that doctor tried to change Michael’s future, Michael had a fractured growth plate. It took months of rest and healing and then months of physical therapy. To not touch a baseball for such an extended period of time was almost more painful than the injury for him, but he did what was necessary. His strength built up to phenomenal levels as he diligently followed his therapists’ guidance.
How many of us keep at it, even when it doesn’t seem to be working? How many of us will do the small repetitive things that are necessary to build that foundation we need? Will we keep doing the boring things that don’t show the results, to gain the momentum for when results come?
Finally, he was healed, and released and back in the game. He was so happy to be where he wanted to be, out on the field.
But even before he was released, he began communication with his coaches. He was one of the first at the dug out for every practice. He practiced with his teammates on the things he could do and encouraged them on what he couldn’t.
Just because he couldn’t play, didn’t stop him from being a part of the team, from being out there where he could smell and feel the clay. His team never doubted that he would be back because Michael never doubted.
Even when we battle, we should always remember that there is more than just the moment we are in. How often do we allow ourselves to accept our excuses and stop putting forth the effort? How often do we stop showing up if we can’t play?
Then came the day, literally just a short time after release, that Michael was feeling great, on the top of his game; while at practice with his travel ball team, that it all changed again. Michael is an incredible catcher and had been playing that position for a couple of years but felt like stepping on the mound again. So, he asked his coach to let him throw. When Michael faced his second batter of the second inning – so he had only faced a few batters – hadn’t really thrown for very long; he landed wrong. He knew when he heard the snap that this wasn’t good. The pain was intense. He stopped and told Coach he was done. He contacted his dad and I and said he needed to go to the Orthopedic on Monday. He knew this was not going to be good.
We asked what happened and he explained that as he was in his pitch, his foot came down wrong, which caused stress on his elbow, and with the force he had in his muscles, he knew it tore something. Sure enough, the MRI revealed that he tore his UCL. So, back again to the months of resting and then the physical therapy. Again, just attending baseball and being supportive and doing what he was allowed to, but not being able to play the field.
At this point, how many of us would think that maybe our dream was over? Maybe we had misinterpreted what we thought that vision was? I mean come on, repeated injuries? Just give up and try something else. Why put ourselves through the pain of failure yet again?
Michael really stepped up his academic game during this healing process, and I asked him about it. He said that he realized that if he really got the grades up, that his chances of academic scholarship would improve, and since he knew he was playing ball in college, that any academic scholarships would help.
I believe this would be a good time to let you know how long Michael has dealt with this arm. Michael jumped his BMX off a ramp and wrecked when he was 9 years old. After that, for over 3 years and four orthopedic doctors, he was in and out of therapy. Finally, it was found that he had fractured the growth plate. What the doctors had continued to do was x-ray and find nothing, so they determined that it was tennis elbow and he would rest for a few weeks and do some physical therapy and go back at it. Then somewhere along during ball season, it would intensify again, and he would be back to the doctor. Finally, an MRI was done, finding the fracture, and pulling him out for a bit longer. But still not doing all that he needed for healing. We finally came up with a different doctor and the magical formula with months completely not throwing, and chiropractic care and then very intensive physical therapy along with a specific throwing program. The fracture healed, and he was finally able to just let loose and do what he loves.
So, now here is this 15-year-old teenager, who has battled to play for 6 years still believing that one day we will all see him playing the Majors, and now has to face a torn UCL.
Game over, right? Not with Michael. He put himself into all of the healing steps that he needed again. He even got a new coach with high school and built the relationship there as well. His coach has said that he has no doubt that a college will sign Michael, because you see his dedication to the game. Michael’s teammates are ready for him to come back into the game.
Michael was doing the things at practice that he was able to do, running and physical exercises, light throwing, things like that, and one night felt the pain pretty bad again. The next morning, he couldn’t move his arm. We got him back to the doctor and an MRA was ordered. An MRA is an MRI but with dye. The doctor is concerned that maybe the tear was worse than what the MRI showed. Unfortunately, Michael has had a few allergies over the years, and one of them is benzocaine. We learned that lidocaine (which is in the same family of pharmaceuticals) is used for the MRA, so before Michael could have an MRA, he had to go through allergy tests to confirm that he could have the procedure. He finally had it done last week, and tomorrow morning we go for the results.
How many of us would continue to believe that it is worth it? How many of us would push ourselves to keep trying?
Michael said he actually felt the needle scrape the bone. He explained how awful it was. Yet he went through it, knowing that this was necessary to get the end results – whatever is necessary to get him back in the game.
He talks positive of having to continue resting it and going back through the program, but he also speaks positive of possible surgery. If he has to have surgery, he will most likely be out for a year. That cuts into his Junior year of high school. Colleges are already signing athletes during their sophomore and junior years. Michael most likely won’t have an opportunity to get signed until his senior year if he has to have surgery. This doesn’t appear to concern him, as he continues to prepare for the future that he envisions.
How many of us would chose to take a different path after so many obstacles? How many of us would continue to pursue with passion while we fight the pain?
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write this before getting the results from the MRA tomorrow. But I decided yes, this blog isn’t about what we learn tomorrow – this blog is about how a 15-year-old young man inspires me continually with his dedication to his dream.
So, when I feel myself losing hope for my dreams, or considering accepting my excuses, all I need to do is look over what my son has gone through and continues to go through. Now that I have shared this with you, I hope that it will inspire you to never give up. Make your decision, like he has, and run for it.
Just like Michael, claim your dream and don’t let anyone else write your story.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Michael May is a pro baseball player, and in a few years, we will all see him play for the Major leagues. Because he sees it in his head and does what it takes to get there. It is his story and he’s writing it.
Never give up, Amy