Connect The Dots... Baby Steps

It is said that a walk of 1000 miles begins with a single step. Perhaps, even a baby step. If this is the case, then one Cole Hamels, he of the two-million dollar left arm, is about to take his first step this week, ironically in a town roughly 1000 miles from Philadelphia. How this journey ends is important not only to the Phillies, the proud recipients of his services in last June's draft, but to modern medicine and its ability to put back together what was once broken and make it whole again.

You see, Cole Hamels isn't just an ordinary left-handed hurler with a 92 MPH fastball and a drop off the table curve. He is far more than that....he is a potential medical marvel, a boy about to begin a man's job with a rebuilt left arm. Hamels broke his left arm when he was 16. Yes, the very arm that the Phillies hope will bring them many wins and few headaches. Now, pitchers have had broken arms before......one time Phillie phenom Jim Wright had one, lefty Tom Browning of Cincinnati had one, left Dave Dravecky of the Giants had not one but two. There is a common theme among these hurlers and its not just the broken arms. It's that none of them ever returned with any semblance of the talent they had before the injury, something Hamels is hoping NOT to repeat. Oh, there is a difference in the injuries, all three hurlers were injured throwing a baseball under live conditions. Indeed, the sight of Dravecky literally falling off the mound in agony is still chilling to contemplate. Not so with Hamels.....his injury is subject to who is telling the story but it was not done on a pitchers mound. In fact, if you wish to know what sport injured Hamels arm just find out what month he was injured. You see, Hamels is a California boy and California athletes have a rite of passage (I know... after all, "CD" stands for California Dreamin' and I have not just dreamed the California lifestyle, I live it). California athletes don't just play baseball, they play whatever sport is in season. In the fall, they play football, in the winter they play basketball, in the spring they play baseball and in the summer it becomes a cornucopia of events, from going to the beach, the moutains...and the baseball diamond. So, find out what season Hamels was injured in and you will know what sport injured him. That Hamels is apparently fully recovered is reflected in his 10-0 record last spring at Rancho San Bernadino HS, where he and teammate Jake Blalock, now a Phillie farmhand, nearly led their team to the State Championship. The Phillies, who have a profound interest in knowing these things, believe he is fully healthy and should suffer no relapses. Though he did not pitch professionally last summer - he signed in late August - and his early spring performances were mixed, he has excited Phillie officials with his recent pitching. Indeed, last Thursday, he KO'd 13 of the 17 hitters he faced in an extended spring performance, thus convincing the Phillies that he is ready for that 1000 mile walk. As previously mentioned, expect his first steps to be baby steps, it is a Phillie philosophy to never push a young hurler in his initial starts. So, do not judge Hamels by his won-loss record early on, judge him on his ability to pitch every 5 days, his ability to get profesional hitters out with the same efficiency that he had in high school and judge him on the fact that he is attempting to become a modern medical marvel, the first pitcher to successfully return from a broken arm. In these steps will the journey of 1000 miles be judged.....hopefully ending on the pitchers mound in Philadelphia's new ballpark when the walk he starts this week is completed.

Columnist's note: Mail, I get mail..and it is always appreciated. One sender commented that in my last column on Schilling's return I misused the word prodigal in reference to Schilling's return. In fact, a quick check of Daniel Webster's most famous book indicates the sender was correct.....prodigal actually refers to someone who has spent all his riches....Schilling obviously has not done that! Thank you for noticing and I humbly stand corrected. If you have a comment, question or suggestion for a column, kindly email me at alariza@webtv.net and I will respond!


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