Battling Adversity: Mental and Physical
By: Josh Evans-August 8, 2007
Battling injuries, physically and mentally, can be one of the most trying aspects of baseball. I started pitching when I was thirteen years old and arm problems were the last thing on my mind. I was always classified as a âspot guyâ or âcontrol pitcherâ living in the lower velocity class. For the most part, it used to seem that the guys that threw harder were more likely to have problems than those of my stature. Obviously nowadays, that is far from the truth.
I attended James Island High School in Charleston, SC, under Coach Tom Hatley. JI always had a good program, competing for a championship every year. Throughout my five years there, I finished with a solid career overall, earning a few awards along the way. Following high school, I went onto play at Spartanburg Methodist Junior College. As a freshman, my main role was out of the pen on the weekends and a few spot starts during the week. I finished up my first year 6-1 and nothing short of high expectations for myself for my sophomore year. It was shortly after I left school, while working out in the off-season, the bumps in the road for my career began.
In June of that summer, I had my first shoulder surgery. Never having any problems in the past that I couldn't play through, this was all new to me, surely having doubts on what would come of it. I worked hard and followed my physical therapy programs to a tee. It seemed as soon as I started turning the corner, more problems came into play. Constant pain in my elbow would end up leading to yet another surgery, only within two months of the first.
I have always worked hard on and off the field; however, I was starting to realize that no matter how hard you work, some things you can't completely control. There's no doubt that there is a certain amount of mental strain that comes along with these injuries when you never know how they will end up. I have seen many friends, teammates, etc. who have never made it through just one injury or surgery, mainly because of the mental aspect of fighting through the obstacles.
Luckily rehab went well that year with both the elbow and shoulder and I was back in time for my first start my sophomore year. I got lit up like I never had, by a team that had no business being on the same field as us. I had to realize that even though I'd have pain here and there from the operations, that I was going to have to compete like I had in the past and not let the team down.
We rolled through the rest of the year straight to the World Series where we captured the schoolâs first win out in Grand Junction. I ended up 10-1 and yet again, had high hopes for the rest of my career. I had signed with Division I, Elon University who was expected to make a good run the next couple years. I went home and worked out all summer as always. Pain in the arm came and went like always, but never anything major. I got to Elon ready to jump in and help the team, when it came to a screeching halt once again. I tried throwing sidearm, submarine, every possible way I could to avoid the pain, but it just wasn't going to happen.
The end result was that my first shoulder surgery had failed.
I was ready to have a third surgery within only about a year of the first two, but this one was different. I couldn't play the upcoming year. Hearing those words from the doc made me want to jump over his desk at him, but I knew I was at a standstill. I had some decisions to make.
Everyone who knows me will tell you I'm as stubborn as they come, so after the news had settled in, the thought of giving the game up wouldn't be a factor. It was a long, frustrating road back, but with the help of some good people and daily hard work I was back in action.
I then signed to play at Charleston Southern for my remaining two years. My first year back was pretty good, but still not what I expected out of myself. I came into my senior year ready to go. Pro day in the fall came and I hit 89 on the gun, which I've never done before. I was pumped. The next day I woke up and could barely move my arm. The trainers put me in a sling. I knew I had no time for anymore MRI's, doctors, or even any extensive rehab.
Luckily, after working through it for a couple weeks, we found that some scar tissue had broken up and I was able to get back in the saddle again. My performance my senior year was below par, and the worst of my career, exactly the opposite of what I needed. The odds of me playing after college with my arm history were almost impossible as it was, and a bad last year certainly wasn't any help. For some reason, I still wasn't going to settle for not playing anymore.
I had a tryout up in Chicago with the Padres in September I had prepared for all summer. More bad news followed, arriving to Chicago that weekend only to see rainstorms all weekend! They gave us an option to go out to Phoenix for another tryout a week later, so I did it. I threw pretty well out there, but didn't get picked up. I went back home and started working. It was a couple weeks later I heard from Les Lancaster, the manager for the Reno Silver Sox Independent team out in Nevada. He was looking on at the tryout out west and wanted to sign me. I jumped at the opportunity and was ready to go. I made it through the cuts at Spring Training and am now a little over halfway through the season. Things are going good so far, and couldn't be happier that I never let all the obstacles in my career get the best of me.
Injuries and slumps are a part of the game, and if I had any advice to give to young players it would be to never let the adversity of the game get to you. My family always told me that things happen for a reason, and it has been true for me. If you think you still have success to accomplish in any aspect, keep moving forward and make it happen!
About the author: Josh Evans is a 2001 graduate of James Island High School and is currently in his first professional season with the Reno Silver Sox as a left-handed relief pitcher. In between, he garnered a record-breaking career at Spartanburg Methodist College and all-conference season at Charleston Southern University.