Updated: Apr 5, 2022
In order to understand my adversity and what I went through during my career, I feel it was necessary to give a thorough background as to how I got to that pivotal point that changed my career forever. Ever since I was five years old I LOVED the game of baseball. Everything about it - from competition, to teamwork, to grit, to tenacity, to hard work, to the ability to get out what you put in. The beauty of the game is that everyone starts at the bottom. They must find a way to get better every single day. With that being said, I understand not everyone has the same opportunities growing up, and I hope to make a difference in my coaching years ahead of me. I personally was fortunate as a child to be able to play for a class A travel ball team called the Oakdale Colts, a team in a small country town in California. From the ages of 6-12, this team taught me everything I know about the game. In this town there really isn’t much to do as a kid other than play sports and hang with your friends. I took full advantage of that and played baseball as often as I could. Oakdale is where I learned how to become the best baseball player I could be and how to earn everything I want in this game.
In high school, I was fortunate to continue to have incredible coaches and teammates showing me the game of baseball. Having played all four years of high school, I was very fortunate to have good health and athletic abilities that allowed me to go out there every day and compete my ass off. Some will say my greatest ability is also what kept me reaching my true potential. My teammates and coaches at the time knew I was a hot head. Sure, I lost my temper on occasion, but I was a hot head who cared about them, and I wanted to get the best out of myself in order to show up every game and help my team win. Having been a part of three section titles as a player - one being considered the greatest team in school history - going undefeated my senior year capping off the three-peat and winning MVP will always be one of my favorite memories. I always wanted to leave knowing I did everything I could and leave nothing to doubt.
As I reached Cabrillo Junior College, my entire life changed forever. My career filled with good fortune was about to run out. About six weeks into a gritty fall season, I felt a sharp pain in my throwing elbow as I threw a pitch in the middle of a game. I didn’t think much of it, as I had played through “pain” my entire career. That is just what ball players are taught to do, but this time was different. I tried to throw another pitch a couple seconds later and went from about 88 MPH to 64 MPH. I knew at that moment something was wrong. I called time, asked for my coach, and told him about the discomfort. In the training room, as I laid on the table with a stem machine and ice on my arm, I had this gut feeling my career was over.
The next day I called Dr. Akizuki, an MD who happens to be the San Francisco Giants team doctor, and the best ulnar repair man in the west. I drove up to San Francisco, nervous as hell, thinking this could be the end of my career before it even really started. All the hours put in, all the lessons, all the love for the game and for it to end like this… I’m lucky I had some rad parents, family members, teammates and coaches who were all rooting for me. As the appointment went on, I could clearly see the tear in the MRI results thinking to myself, “its over.” Dr. Akizuki reassured me that the road to recovery would not be easy, but he would be able to repair the tear and give me another shot at the game I love. I told myself at that time I would take advantage of this opportunity as I would any other, but the truth of the matter was once I had the surgery, depression hit - hard.
Seeing my roommates, teammates, and coaches all get to enjoy the game of baseball day in and day out in all phases (practice, cage work, on field, weight room, meetings, study hall, etc) made me feel completely alone. My teammates would always reach out and say “C’mon, Drew. Come to 6am weights, practice and study hall. Be a part of the team again”. I would always refuse because I was so caught up in myself and how much pain I was in, thinking about how I could not help them win or get better in any way. It was this support from my teammates, however, that kept me going. They helped me understand that that are more ways to help a team win than just playing. I realized that more goes into a team than I could’ve ever imagined. My teammates supported me when I was down, so I had to return the favor.
To those who find themselves in a similar situation: It’s not about you. While it may seem like an impossible journey ahead, there is hope. Finding support in your teammates is priceless. Be grateful for your brothers who are willing to stand with you in a tough time. So when the time comes for them to perform, be there for them. Support them. Be in their corner and never leave it.
As the months after surgery came and went, I could feel my possible return growing closer. The first time I picked up a ball in 7 months and threw it a mere few feet away was a huge victory in and of itself. A ton of work went into those few feet from numerous trainers and doctors. I had spent the last 200-plus days, 6-8 hours a day, doing physical therapy, small movements, strength training, flexibility work, and mental training, and for all that effort to come down to a single throw, 5 feet away – man, let me tell you… It was amazing.
But after about 15 minutes after throwing, it occurred to me that no matter the amount of work I had done, or would continue to do would ever get me back to where I was before injury. I knew deep down that something about me had changed for the better. This break from the game really allowed me to see the little things that matter – the things that make or break a person's career, like studying the game and understanding hitters and pitchers. Watching my teammates go about the game really opened my eyes to the finer details that go into succeeding in the most difficult game in the world. It also changed me because I knew that my ability to do the things I use to do would never be possible again. I knew at that moment that I would have to figure out another way to get myself back on the field and help my team win. My simple “athletic body” was no longer enough to allow me to succeed. I needed to use my brain, study the game and understand every situation in order to regain my edge on opponents like before.
Being forced to learn how to outthink my opponents was a true blessing in disguise. Sure, my injury slowed me down - but it wasn't the end of my career. There was still hope. For those going through a similar situation, know this: IT IS NOT THE END. That's the beauty of baseball. It's not just about who's more athletic and who's faster and stronger. You can't succeed in baseball that easy. Whether you've been injured or not, there is no way around the mental side of the game. For some, injuries force you to learn the mental side. For others who have been lucky enough to avoid such an experience, be proactive. Why not learn the mental game before you have no other choice? It make make your journey a hell of a lot easier.
Andy's first contribution, but certainly not his last. Make sure to subscribe for more contributions like this one. Thanks for reading!