Spencer Kept On Pushing On

To say Connor Spencer had a frustrating season would be a huge understatement despite the fact that it was an All Star season for the Charleston first baseman. He suffered a broken hamate bone injury, one which he initially tried to play through, that ended his season in early June. He kept trying to push through the injury though and now he's doing the same in his rehab.

On the surface it seems Connor Spencer had a fine season when he was healthy, hitting .290 for the Charleston RiverDogs and earning South Atlantic League All Star honors. However, the fact is he wasn't nearly as healthy for as long as it seemed.

"Originally it was the second week of May that it happened," Spencer recounted the injury. "We were on the road in Lexington and my wrist started to become sore. I really didn't think anything of it. It was your normal 'we're starting to get into the season here'. I was just getting a little sore and didn't think anything of it.

"I kept playing and it was fine, and I made it to the last game in West Virginia and my last at-bat [but] first swing I fouled a ball back and I felt just absolute excruciating pain go up my hand as soon as I took the swing, and I knew right away that something was wrong. I questioned whether or not to tell the staff but I did because it hurt too much and I knew something was wrong."

An X-ray on May 13th didn't reveal any injury. They couldn't see the hamate bone though on the X-ray but from where the pain was on his hand they thought it could have been a ligament injury.

He was told if the pain doesn't subside he should go back in and get an MRI to check the hamate bone. He then went on the disabled list to rest the injury and three days later the hand was a little bit better but still very painful.

Speaking with teammates Radley Haddad and Ryan Lindemuth, two players who had previously broken their hamate bones, Spencer had a strong feeling that he did in fact break his, and that feeling had him convinced when he began swinging a bat a few days later.

"I took a swing and it was still excruciating but I looked in the mirror and told myself -- from the playing background I come from and the college coach I played for, I grew up being the one to just rub some dirt on it. So I just kind of played it off as there was nothing wrong.

"They made me take practice hacks and I said 'no problem' and in my head I'm crying because my hand was in excruciating pain but I knew I could do this. I thought if I could just help this team for a few months, get into the month of August and play through this and still be productive then I would tell them that I broke [the hamate bone] and get the surgery in the offseason. I just wanted to help the team get to the playoffs.

"So everyday I would wrap my wrist up as tight as it would go and then ended up going to buy a yoga mat. I cut a piece of the yoga mat and put it into my batting glove so it would absorb the shock of the bat and take away some of the pain from the broken hamate bone.

"I started doing that toward the back month of May and it was going fine," he continued. "I was playing great and still putting up numbers. I thought to myself 'hey, I can do this'. As long as I could limit my swings and not foul that many balls back, and use my swings to my advantage, put four swings on the ball during my at-bats, I told myself 'I'm going to be able to help this team and do this'.

"The plan was going great until the middle of June or late June when we were at Hickory. Late in the game my coach comes up to me and tells me 'if the leadoff hitter gets on and the third baseman plays back you might want to look at [bunting]'. Of course the leadoff guy gets on and the third baseman is playing all the way back by the [outfield] grass. The first pitch I square around and the pitcher totally panics and throws it dead at me. I had nowhere to go and I took 93 [mph] off my knee cap and that put me on the DL for a week."

He went on the disabled list with a bruised knee cap but when he came back from being on the DL for a week and doing nothing his hammate bone had healed a little bit. He then re-broke it on a swing attempting to come back.

"I couldn't handle it anymore," he admitted. "I finally went to my trainer, came clean and told him the whole story back from when I first broke it. Of course they were disappointed with me and it was frustrating to say the least.

"They were really not happy. The most frustrated was my trainer because I hadn't been completely truthful with him but he was extremely understanding of my point of view and where I was coming from in wanting to help the team get to the postseason as long as I could possibly could. The team was really frustrated because when I went down that week with my knee injury I didn't say anything [about the hamate injury]."

He went back to Tampa to get an MRI and the hamate bone was in fact broken. The MRI showed there was newly fresh blood in the bone which meant there was a fresh break and that meant that week he took off the bone actually started to heal a little bit and then he re-broke it, and now had to have surgery to correct it.

"The surgeon told me the procedure and at the end of it said 'you can't play on this anymore?' and I said 'no way, I went a month with it broken and made an All Star game with it but I can't do it anymore'. He laughs and says 'yeah I would have said play through it and wait until the end of the season and then do it'.

Though he had not been exactly truthful about it that was Spencer's plan all along. While he would have changed the full disclosure aspect about how things went down, he says he doesn't regret trying to play through the injury initially and feels a little acquitted by his doctor's sentiment too.

"I was going to push through it as hard I possibly could have," he said. "I did. I pretty much pushed it until I couldn't push it anymore. One day in the cage Austin Aune, who is a good buddy of mine, asked me 'are you swinging with one hand?' and that's when I was like 'that's it, if it's going to affect my game I can't push it anymore'.

He had the surgery a little more than nine weeks ago and he says he is feeling really good these days. He isn't too far off from resuming all baseball activities and plans on hitting the offseason hard in preparation for a full return in 2016.

"It feels good. It's been over nine weeks since the surgery and it's going well. As of right now I'm in full lifting mode. While I was still recovering from the hand I was doing lower-body lifts but as of now I'm in the gym 100 percent. I feel great.

"There's absolute no pain throwing either. But the Yankees do not want me swinging bat, even touching a bat, until the first week of November. The hamate injury has a tendency to be nagging so now that it's the offseason they said 'don't even worry about rushing yourself back for Instructs, just take the time'. Now that we're nine weeks out I feel great. I'm real antsy to get back swinging but I know I need to relax and take it slow," he concluded.

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