Thursday, March 24, 2011

Once injury-riddled, OF Andrew Thomas makes full return

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || March 24, 2011

Andrew Thomas stepped into the batter’s box a week ago for the first time in nearly two years.

It was the top of the eighth inning in last Friday’s series-opener at Missouri, and head coach Steve Jaksa called on the junior outfielder to pinch-hit with two outs, nobody on base and the Chippewas trailing by two.

And for the first time in his baseball career, Thomas — standing with a bat in his hands inside of a batter’s box — was nervous.

“It was definitely nerve-racking,” he said. “I hadn’t seen a live pitch in over a year.”

After seeing a full count of live pitches, Thomas found the pitch he was looking for — a fastball — and singled, scoring two batters later to pull the Chippewas within a run.

“Once I saw the first pitch, it all started coming back to me,” he said.

But it wasn’t the first time Thomas felt it coming back. He felt it two seasons ago, when, fully recovered from a broken thumb that ended his freshman year, Thomas tore a labrum in his shoulder, effectively ending his sophomore year.

He felt it last winter, when, hot on the comeback trail once again, Thomas broke his wrist. And he felt it last spring, when, almost recovered from his broken wrist, Thomas injured his groin and was shelved for the 2010 season.

Now, he’s feeling it again.

“It feels amazing,” Thomas said. “It’s just amazing to be back on the field again.”

And after four surgeries in under two years time; first it was a broken thumb, then the torn labrum, then the broken wrist before hurting his groin last season, Thomas is back and figures to make a big contribution to the CMU lineup down the stretch.

“I think this is a boost to his morale,” Jaksa said. “He has a good attitude, works hard and most importantly, deserves the opportunity to play.”

And after missing the first 17 games of the season, Thomas made an appearance in all four games against the Tigers.

He was plunked twice on Saturday and started both games in a Sunday doubleheader, scoring a run in each.

“Once I was healthy, I told [Jaksa] I was ready to go,” Thomas said. “Hopefully I proved to him that my body is ready.”

But during the long months of rehabilitating from one injury to the next, the redshirt junior admits there were times he didn’t know if his body would ever be ready.

“It was real tough,” he said. “Always one thing after another. I couldn’t play then I couldn’t practice and honestly, I didn’t know if I’d ever be healthy again.”

But Thomas is healthy again, still receiving treatment on his shoulder daily and, after a clearing a few mental hurdles — a handful of at-bats, running the bases and making a diving catch last weekend — feels like his body is back.

“I knew that it was eventually going to be alright,” he said. “I just needed to get back out there.”

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