Theal determined to bounce back
Cal Theal was throwing a bullpen earlier this year when he began to experience some discomfort in his elbow.
The 21-year-old Niagara Falls native, who is a junior at Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y., threw a few more pitches but soon had to back off.
“Every pitch I was throwing, it was bothering me more and then the final pitch I threw I felt a little bit of a pop and knew something was wrong,” the A.N. Myer graduate said.
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was scheduled and revealed the bad news: a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in Theal’s right elbow.
“It can happen to anybody,” he said. “I take really good care of my arm and body. When it happened, I was definitely concerned because our season was getting so close and I had worked very hard. My coach was very pleased with the progress I was making.
“It was devastating when it happened, for sure.”
Theal, who played for the Greater Niagara Baseball Association and then at the club level for the Great Lake Canadians before joining Niagara, is trying to keep a positive frame of mind.
“There were definitely some downs but you can’t let it keep you down,” he said. “One thing I always look back to is a quote from (New York Mets pitcher) Marcus Stroman who said, ‘A minor setback’s for a major comeback.’ That’s been my mantra for the past few months.”
The injury could be repaired with ligament reconstructive surgery (Tommy John) but Theal has opted for a PRP injection in which platelets are taken from the his blood and injected into the elbow.
“We were trying to avoid surgery at all costs because surgery is a full year recovery and this is more six to eight months,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that (surgery) doesn’t happen.”
Theal, who still feels discomfort in his elbow when he mimics throwing a baseball, is back in the gym, focusing on the muscles surrounding the elbow.
“I’m going to be smart about it. We had guys on the team who had the same procedure and kind of rushed back into it but I’m trying to not pick up a baseball until I am pain free and as strong as I want to be to avoid this happening again.”
Theal lives on campus and admits it is difficult not to see his teammates where they are on the road. The Purple Eagles are about one month into their season in which they are playing a modified schedule.
“When the team is on the road and I’m back here it’s definitely a tough scenario. I’m working hard trying to keep myself busy but COVID doesn’t make it any easier,” he said. “We are only playing conference teams so our team has a really good chance of winning and of course I want to be part of that. We are playing really well and looking good.”
Theal has two years of athletic eligibility remaining and next semester begins student teaching.
“I’m pretty excited about that,” he said. “I feel like it was my first day on campus yesterday. It feels the same. It’s crazy how it flies by.”
He isn’t looking too far down the road, although, playing at the highest level possible is his goal.
“For now my goal is just to be as successful as I can here. I want to be the best player I can at Niagara University and do everything I can to help my team win,” he said. “I was looking forward to being part of it this year.”
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