Tommy John surgery normally mandates pitchers take a great deal of time off to rehabilitate. In a remarkable turn, a high school softball player found a loophole in that sentiment, choosing to instead switch hands and become a southpaw after surgery.
Fargo-Moorhead Forum's Tom Mix (h/t Yahoo! Sports, USA Today) reports on Central Cass High School's (N.D.) Sierra Amundson, a resourceful right-handed junior pitcher who, thanks to being on the mend for months, can pitch from both sides.
Mix states that Amundson's sophomore season went splendidly, garnering the young athlete an 8-0 record as well as the presumed title of staff ace.
Like so many hurlers before her, Amundson would suffer an injury that would have sidelined anyone else:
That is when the right-handed junior found out her pitching arm needed Tommy John surgery – a procedure where the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The diagnosis put Amundson’s junior season in serious jeopardy because a Tommy John procedure carries with it a year of rest and rehabilitation.
Just ask a Braves or Diamondbacks fan, and they will gladly tell you that the rehabilitation process seems far longer than a year. Kris Medlen and Patrick Corbin will both miss significant time because of the procedure.
The surgery has become so famous that most understand right away that getting it done means a long road and the possibility that one's previous form never returns.
Amundson relayed how she felt when she heard the news:
I cried. I cried a lot. At first, they told me I needed surgery and I said ‘OK’ and then they said it is a year layup, and at first that doesn’t hit you, but then you realize, ‘Oh, that is my entire junior year gone and hopefully playing my senior year if things go well.
Most would accept the loss of a year and move on in rehabilitating as best they could. However, the junior did one better: She became a lefty.
Determination, it seems, is Amundson's far greater attribute over budding ambidexterity:
It is hard for me sit and watch when I want to play so bad. So I told myself, ‘I’ll just switch hands. It can’t be that hard.’ Then you try it and you really find out how difficult it is. … I kept going with it and practiced as often as I could.
I had to find a way to play. I was going to find a way into the lineup no matter what.
Now the report doesn't say exactly how well the pitcher is doing in her new role as lefty. Not that anyone should expect the same form from the other side, because, after all, this is the same girl who garnered a 1.61 ERA last season.
Looking for similar stats would greatly miss the point, because just months after deciding to switch to a left-handed approach, Amundson has done enough to convince coach Scott Kost:
I am surprised, but having said that I really shouldn’t be surprised. Sierra is a remarkable kid and works so hard. Like anyone else would, she has struggled with the mechanics of (throwing left-handed) and struggled getting the ball in the strike zone, but she has kept working at. She doesn’t give up, and I’m very confident she will throw some innings for us this season left-handed.
Amundson still struggles with muscle memory in her left arm, but her idea is largely a success, because she can now throw about 30 pitches with her right, a number she hopes rises with the season.
All she wanted to do was to stay on the field and play the sport she loved, so she thought outside the box for a solution most would find absurd.
When crazy works, it's indeed a beautiful thing.
Yahoo! Sports Ben Rohrbach explains that coach Kost has quite the asset: "In other words, Kost can use his new weapon as both a righty and lefty reliever, which could be vital in a North Dakota spring season that is often condensed to a few weeks due to the weather."
We can't accurately predict how Amundson will fare in her new role. She is no longer the right-handed ace that was expected at this time. However, she has proved she is so much more.
Only a junior, Amundson proved to herself, her teammates and her coach that she can pretty much handle any challenge and accomplish outrageous goals.
That kind of determination is vital, and it should go a long way for Amundson and her teammates.
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