Bottom of the 9th, #45 – Strike Three

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Bottom of the 9th - Strike Three

Strike Three by Ryan Blackburn - Valor Junior; Pitcher, Third Base

     Strike three, you're out!  That is the phrase that pitchers are dying to hear when they step up onto the mound and look to prove themselves to their teammates, coaches, and parents.  I know that throwing a nasty deuce past their three hole to end the inning is one of the best feelings in baseball.  I was really looking forward to proving myself again to my coaches and my teammates, proving that I can compete with all of the athletic players on the Valor baseball team.  Then, Tuesday February 4th, 2014 at 8:47 AM it happened, a moment I will never forget but for all of the wrong reasons.     Many of you know that I was diagnosed with a SLAP tear of my labrum in my right (throwing) shoulder.  Since my sophomore year, I had been dealing with a great deal of pain  while pitching and playing third base for the Valor JV team. Last year started off strongly, but right before one of our away games, during warming up I just could not throw the baseball to first base for the first time in my life.  It was shocking to me because I had always prided myself in my arm and my ability to fire the ball to first base from wherever I was (including left field, but that's the stuff of another story).  Being unable to rifle the ball to first base was killing me.  I sat out that game and throughout the season I sat a couple of other games because what I thought to be tendinitis kept flaring up at inopportune times.  More errors than ever before, and struggling to pitch more than three innings at a time should have been an indicator that I was dealing with a much bigger problem.  That Tuesday morning just before 9:00 when the doctor told mom and me that I had to have surgery in order to get better, I honestly cried like a baby.  How can this be?  This is my junior year of baseball, it is so important to me.  The time between being told I needed surgery until the day of surgery was surreal, days seemed like minutes, minutes like weeks, how can that be?  How can time warp?  I was just finding my swing, is all of my hard work now lost because I'll just have to do it all over again when I'm cleared to start throwing in five months?  The short answer is no, and here's why:

When I was asked to write for Bottom of the 9th, my first thought was to tell about diving to catch a ball in left field and the throw to first base to double up the best team in the league... amazing how things can change right?  My story is pale compared to that of Eric LeGrand.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyYFI3qrrzU This is a video of Eric LeGrand a Rutgers football player who was paralyzed and found his way back to football.

Eric is an unbelievable person and player and his story inspires me and my road to being back on both the football and baseball fields.  Doctors told Eric that he had a five percent chance of recovering neurological function below his neck and he plans on walking soon, that is the definition of a miracle and is testament to his passion and hard work.  Eric's inspiration motivates me to come back better than I was both on and off of the athletic field.  The games that I play are gifts that I have taken for granted to this point in life.  I love to play football and baseball but it never really struck me that it could be taken away as quickly as it was for Eric or me.  I had my labrum repaired arthroscopically on February 12, 2014, I'll be on the sideline this baseball season.  God has given me a reason to truly appreciate next season and any possible years after that.

Strike three, you're out!  That phrase has new meaning to me these days, not the glory of the pitcher or the anguish of the hitter but a new appreciation for the game and for God and his healing powers.  I may be out, but my heart and my faith are with God and Valor baseball.

     For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and nor for evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jeremiah 29:11

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