Tommy John surgery and Self

As the World Series begins, a thought on baseball and our theme of “self”. Baseball, among all the major sports, has a unique configuration that no other sport has…..pitcher versus batter. The center stage of baseball is a mano e mano struggle between two giants. All the rest of the cast is supporting. Two different athletic skills confront one another. Not like tennis. Not like boxing. There is nothing more dramatic. Put an All-Star 20 game winner on the mound and a 300+ hitter in the box. Add some dire circumstance such as bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, game tied. Gladiators, giants, of two different skills pitted against each other. A team, a pennant, 50,000 fans, a city, a nation attend the moment. Each can take their time in the readiness. But at some moment, the pitcher must throw and the batter must swing or take. Great Drama! Nothing else like it in sports.

One must assume, like a kicker is his leg, a pitcher is his arm. That is the essence of his particular athletic gift….his arm! But then one day, and increasingly often in recent years, the pitcher basically destroys his arm in the practice of his gift. He is sidelined, examined, evaluated and sometimes found to have so severely damaged his arm that it must be rebuilt. Thus the miracle of “Tommy John surgery”. Orthopedic surgeons surgically rebuild a new arm. With parts and pieces from other places in the body, they, like so many Dr. Frankensteins, create a new arm. Now the gifted pitcher faces the end of his career, or many months of agonizing rehab in the hope of recapturing his earlier prowess.

The fact is, that most of the pitchers who undergo TJ surgery, do return to the mound. And many of them maintain the same dominant skills. But it is accomplished with a different arm. So……….was it a unique and gifted arm that made him the dominant pitcher that he originally was or was it something else? If you give that person a different arm, not a natural one, but a man-made reconstructed one, what goes into making that new arm work like the old one? Something called SELF?

Given the theme of this blog and my book (“see my book
), I take inspiration from this tale. If we seek to remake ourselves in some way to achieve more authenticity, what better proof that such effort can pay off than the saga of TJ surgery? Through sheer dint of effort and dedication, a man with a new arm remakes himself into another dominant pitcher. The main ORIGINAL ingredient that is the same throughout is the internal man himself. He has willed himself into being a new and dominant pitcher. It can be done. It is not just physical rehabilitation. It is mind over matter. Mind over body.

It is possible to remake yourself. It is possible to re-discover your true self. Perform some Tommy John surgery on your inner self and rehab. Take inspiration and proof from all the pitchers out there. Take example from their months of grueling rehab. Take hope from their persistence in the face of doubt. Share their triumph when they throw the final strike, a high fast 90 mph pitch, past a 300 hitter to end the game. Be as triumphant when you regain your own Authentic Self!


2 thoughts on “Tommy John surgery and Self

  1. Really the knockout of this post is the line,”the pitcher basically destroys his arm in the practice of his gift.” Isn’t that what we all do, whatever our gift: in effect, we give it away? Once given, it’s gone, like the last curveball Tommy John threw that tore that last bit of tendon. We’re required to recreate ourselves(or our arms), over and over again. It’s inevitable. The problem isn’t the work required. It’s knowing in the first place that this is the fact of our existence, either as artist, athlete, parent, etc. I suspect Tommy John was prepared for the rehab because he realized baseball demanded constant improvisation and self re-creation.


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