This article is the first chapter in a journal series to be written by White Sox pitching prospect, Blake Hickman. Hickman, drafted in the seventh round in 2015, had Tommy John surgery not long after being drafted. Blake is a native of Chicago and product of famed Simeon High School and the White Sox ACE program. These journals will chronicle his ongoing rehab and recovery from surgery, as he works to get back on the mound.
When I got the news that I needed to get Tommy John surgery, at first I had no reaction.
I couldn’t believe that something like this could happen after all of the work I put into the 2015 season. I wasn’t angry nor was I upset. Once I got the news that I had a complete tear in my elbow, I took it as: I’m getting a new arm and that the end of the process I will come back stronger. I looked myself in the mirror and told myself, “you will come back stronger from this,” countless times a day while looking at my arm in the cast.
This is the type of situation that builds a man and his character so I was determined to be better at that too.
The hard thing was realizing that I could be out all of 2016. I never missed more than 2 months of baseball during the season.
To keep my head clear I trained during this offseason as if I was playing in Spring Training. I went back to the University of Iowa to rehab and take classes. That helped a lot being around a lot of positive people and also finishing one of two semesters I have left.
I worked hard every single day of rehab and wanted to get stronger week by week. After the semester I went back to Chicago to continue my workouts alongside other professional and minor league players. They pushed me to get stronger because I saw how hard they were working for Spring Training so I had to work just as hard as if I was going to play.
The biggest part that has helped me stay sane through this process is my family. Every day, seeing their faces during the summer, fall, and winter following my surgery helped me realize how much they want to see me get back. I haven’t had that much family time since senior year of high school. Being around family really put things into perspective because I have them behind me every step of the way.
Fast forward to nine months after surgery. On March 7th I finally got to throw a baseball and it was the greatest feeling in the world. It felt like I hadn’t thrown a baseball in years but it was good to be back. The third week I made it back to 60 feet, but I a had a setback and had to shut it down for two weeks.
I had to get my shoulder stronger to get it ready for that type of intensity after not throwing for nine to ten months. I knew the process of Tommy John wasn’t going to be a cake walk so I wasn’t too upset about it. After those two weeks of more focused rehab on plyometrics, internal and external strengthening, I started back throwing and I felt much better. I’m throwing three times a week at 60 feet right now. Every week of throwing is different so I just have to follow the throwing program written out for me.
March was a tough month of throwing but April is looking much better and I’m getting used to my arm action again.
It’s still early in this process but I know it’ll pay off in the end.
Read a full Q&A with Blake from after he was drafted here. And keep an eye on this space for future journal entries from Blake.
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