I sit, shirt off, feet dangling from the medical table, staring at the wall. The doctor grabs my arm, one hand under my elbow, the other just below my right armpit. “Does this hurt?” he asks as he starts to manipulate my arm like someone trying to break limbs from a sapling. I know where it hurts. My right arm and I have an intimate relationship. It has fed, dressed and paid me for the last 20 years.
I sit, shirt off, feet dangling from the medical table, staring at the wall. The doctor grabs my arm, one hand under my elbow, the other just below my right armpit.
“Does this hurt?” he asks as he starts to manipulate my arm like someone trying to break limbs from a sapling.
“How about this?”
I know where it hurts. My right arm and I have an intimate relationship. It has fed, dressed and paid me for the last 20 years.
When it barks, I know all the details. I’ve never had to deal with arm pain before, and now, suddenly, irrefutably, it’s here.
I know exactly where and when it comes. I just don’t know why.
“How, about this?” The doc tries to get my arm over my head, and that’s when I feel it. Like someone crossing two hot wires somewhere in my shoulder. I instinctively cringe and give under the doc’s pressure.
“A little there, huh?”
“Yeah, just a little,” I muster.
The team trainer watches with his arms crossed, a concerned look on his face. The doc continues to find land mines buried in my shoulder by pressing, pulling and twisting my meal ticket. All I can do is sit there like a pin cushion, trying to not to lose perspective.
Pitching is my life. Not many people get to say that. I’m lucky, and I know it.
It’s just that right now, I don’t feel so lucky. I tried to play catch a few days ago, and the ball didn’t zip out of my hand in the crisp way I’ve become accustom to.
When my arm spun around to give the old pearl a toss, there was this pain. Right at the release, this electric bite, like a short circuit shooting fresh sparks into my joint. I couldn’t get the arc out of my tosses, and each time I tried, the sparks got bigger and hotter.
I gave up after 25 throws, staring down at my arm like it was a stranger. Like it was a betrayer, an assassin out to kill my dream.
It’s not only my arm that hurts. It’s my house payment, car payment, wife and family. It’s the gas tank and the heating bill, the appliances and groceries. It’s all the things I took for granted when I was invincible, demanding uninterrupted prosperity.
Well, pardon the interruption — a point emphasized as the doc finds another trigger and sends me squirming on the table.
Shots. Ineffective. Pills. Ineffective. Rehab. Strike three.
Here I am, back in the examining room to learn the next step.
“If you were a writer, we’d wait,” says the trainer after conferencing with the doc. “Eventually, it might get better. But you’re a ballplayer. You use your arm. The clock is against you in this career, and surgery is the fastest way to figure out your issue, and hopefully, get you healthy.”
“How long will I be down?”
“Depends on what they find. A couple months, maybe the season.” He shrugs. “What do you think?”
I think that in a perfect world, I’d be back on the team as soon as I was healthy, but the baseball world is not perfect, nor is it fair. I got to the bigs because someone else got hurt. Someone will replace me now. It’s the natural order of things. At my age with my average stuff, if I come back from this less than 100 percent, it will mean the end of my career.
I hold on to one key point. If I worried about chances and percentages, I’d have no career to lose. A competitor is a competitor in body and spirit. If it weren’t for the spirit, the arm wouldn’t matter at all.
Dirk Hayhurst is a 28-year-old right-hander and a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. His book, "The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor-League Veteran," is available for order at Amazon.com. Hayhurst will miss four to six months of the upcoming season after surgery to repair fraying in the labrum of his right shoulder. Follow Dirk and his writing at www.dirkhayhurst.com.