Sciambra's 2012 season screeched to a halt on March 25 when he crashed into a wall at Auburn and suffered two non-displaced fractures in his neck vertebrae and a concussion.
At the time, Sciambra was just starting to emerge. He had worked his way into the starting center fielder job and was hitting .246 (15 of 61) with 10 runs and 11 RBIs in 16 starts.
In the blink of a full-speed sprint and dive for a tailing fly ball, the former Catholic High star's season was over. He doesn't remember much about the play because he was momentarily knocked unconscious.
|Chris Sciambra: 'It's never a question for me that I was going to be around guys no matter what.'|
"I wouldn't have it any other way, going full speed like that," he said. "My first question when I came around was if I had caught the ball. I was kind of upset that I didn't because I thought I had it."
Since the injury was diagnosed by Baton Rouge orthopedic surgeon Dr. Hank Eiserloh, Sciambra has walked around with a heavy-duty neck brace and has been limited to very light cardio work on a stationary bike or elliptical machine.
No baseball at all for the first time since he picked up a bat as a toddler.
But to think Sciambra has faded into the background is altogether inaccurate.
Once he got comfortable with the brace and the feeling that he could function fairly normally, Sciambra returned to Alex Box Stadium and has been a mainstay in the Tigers' dugout or at least nearby ever since.
Whether he's helping chart in the dugout or simply soaking in what his older teammates do as they prepare to play, Sciambra has made sure to stay woven into the Tigers' colorful fabric.
"It's never a question for me that I was going to be around guys no matter what," Sciambra said. "Our team chemistry is really good and it helps to have everybody around. I just try to keep it loose in the dugout whenever it gets too serious, try to change the mood however I can."
"I still feel like I have a role. My goal coming into this season was to try and help out any way I could and I still feel like I can do that."
There's some therapeutic value to being around his teammates as well.
As the No. 1-ranked Tigers (43-16) plowed through the season on the way to the SEC regular-season championship, Sciambra got the chance to see things from a different perspective while also watching what he's always rooted for: An LSU championship.
"As long as the team succeeds, I'm going to be happy," he said. "I'm past the disappointment stage of the injury and looking forward to getting better. And it keeps me excited and motivated to be around these guys and seeing how well we've come together as a team.
|Chris Sciambra: In 16 starts the freshman outfielder batted .246 with 10 runs and 11 RBIs|
"Finally playing here is a dream come true for me, and with this injury, it's been a lot different than watching from the stands. I'm learning a lot about the game that I didn't know before."
One thing Sciambra hasn't had to learn is how hungry he is to get back on the diamond.
He has to wear the brace for three more weeks – Sciambra insists "I'll wear it a little longer if we're in Omaha" – before he starts an aggressive program of physical rehab.
Once the rehab begins, Sciambra's goal is to get back to throwing and swinging the bat with an eye on being ready to go by the fall season when Sciambra is expected to rejoin the battle for playing time in the LSU outfield.
"There's never been a question in my mind that I'd come back and play," Sciambra said. "I've played through injuries before through and my focus is going to be the same – to bounce back and play again. I'm not going to stop until I do that."
In the meantime, Sciambra will continue to be cautious as he plays whatever role he can to help the Tigers' extend their season.
"I know what my limits are," Sciambra said. "I'm not going to go out and dog pile when we get to Omaha or anything."
He will be there with a smile on his face, though, with his teammates. Right where he intended to be all along.
At Alex Box Stadium
Game 1: 2 p.m. – (3) Belmont (39-22) vs. (2) Oregon State (38-18)
Game 2: 7 p.m. – (1) LSU (43-16) vs. (4) UL-Monroe (31-28)
Game 3: 2 p.m. – Belmont-Oregon State loser vs. LSU-ULM loser
Game 4: 7 p.m. – Belmont-Oregon State winner vs. LSU-ULM winner
Game 5: 1:30 p.m. – Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser
Game 6: 6:30 p.m. – Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner
Game 7: 6:30 p.m. – Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner, if necessary