As Phuture Phillies comes close to finishing their Reader Top 30, we spot an obvious casualty: Scott Mathieson. Poor guy missed out on making this last cut by two lousy votes. Which is not to say everybody who has made it doesn’t deserve it, but Scott’s got something that’s a little more impressive than anybody else.
No, I am not questionably accusing every other Phillies prospect of missing their… arms. I’m just saying, a guy who claims to love bears because he’s seen them in pictures, and a guy who says he loves bears even after being mauled by one, twice (and it would have to be the same bear both times), deserves a louder round of applause.
Once upon a time, within the majestic walls of Citizens Bank Park, summer was turning into fall. Multi-colored foliage and postseason baseball were outstretching their arms toward each other, about to walk hand in hand as the nights got darker earlier and Barry Bonds continued to cheat his way into the annals of baseball history.
Scott Mathieson was pitching against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves and Phils were locked in some clamorous squabbling as the first place Mets watched from above, laughing and snorting and generally being Met-like. The promising young prospect was chomping at the bit to put up a wall on any Braves’ threat of taking over second place in the NL East.
Six pitches later, he was gone.
Thanks to a “burning sensation” in his right elbow, Mathieson was examined and it was decided the 22-year-old was going to receive Tommy John surgery. In many cases, the “TJ” label can be detrimental to any hope of returning to sports. The surgery puts the ulnar nerve at high risk, which is the most exposed nerve in the human body.
Remember that bear analogy? Well, this was dancing around a sleeping bear with a couple of juicy steaks around your neck.
Mathieson persevered, as impassioned athletes do, and recovered nicely enough to pitch again, and not only that, but pitch 97 mph. There are plenty of guys who haven’t had their arms cut open and can’t do that.
Screw Chris Coste (Also, screw him because he’s a Met now) and his “I was older than I should have been” story. When’s the last time somebody tore his arm open and played his tendons like a fiddle?
We all know the story. Scott’s arrant awesomeness bought him a lot of hope to play for the Phils again… and then it was fervently dashed by a twinge and a pop.
It was May 2008, not two years after his first Tommy John surgery on September 29, 2006. And Scott was going back under the knife for the same damn thing. In 2009, the recovery rate of someone undergoing Tommy John surgery was between 85-92%. However, the second-timers have a rougher, lower number in front of them: 30%.
Let’s take a step back from the story for a second and just appreciate the real obstacles here, and the will power involved in tangling with them. These things you’re reading; they’re just words on a page. There’s no real way to make you feel what Tommy John surgery feels like; you will never have to recover and recover and recover, in a process that must seem so s … l … o … w and gutwrenching that time itself becomes an enemy.
I have a hard time summoning the will to stand up when I hear the Mr. Coffee chiming.
In early November 2009, Scott was the last player added to the Phillies 40-man Spring Training roster, elbows and all. Regardless of how his year winds up, and let’s hope its a good one, you’ve gotta toss the guy some credit. He’s got a high-90s fast ball and he’s been operated on more times than the Six Million Dollar Man (who I guess only had that one, big operation).
As Scott pokes the bear for round three, we get to watch and see if an awe-inspiring comeback story becomes an awe-inspiring success story. When you’re a kid, you just want to play baseball, and Scott’s got that focused drive that compels him to just play the game, he’s just unfortunate enough to have more roadblocks than most. Of course, I’ve never seen a kid with a pitch that fast, except for that fat kid BJ in little league who was like three years older than the rest of us. Asshole.
Here’s to the saga of a true baseball bad-ass coming back from the brink with a smile and a devastating fastball. May 2010 be a season he continues to impress. Hopefully, with baseball this time.
And in “We Know, Damn It” news, here are the Top 5 Phillies of 2010.