"I did not know if I was ever going to play baseball again. But I've always been blessed with a flair for the dramatic."
By Alex Woinski '17, Lafayette Baseball
The Finish Line
The Finish Line, a special section of The Real Deal, is a series of first-person stories written by recently graduated student-athletes, reflecting on their Lafayette experience.
Four years ago, I had a lot on my mind. I knew I wanted to play baseball at Lafayette. I thought I wanted to go to Chiropractic school.
Today, I’m graduating with a plan to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. How I got to this point, though, was far from the ordinary.
It was April 19, 2015 at Depew Field in Lewisburg. We were in a battle to make it into the Patriot League playoffs. A win in both games at Bucknell and then either beat Lehigh at least once or have Bucknell lose again in order to make it to the tourney.
I was a sophomore at the time and following a big freshman year, I had high expectations and was beginning to feel the pressure after getting off to a terrible start.
Coming into that game, I had a 10-game hitting streak, had been hitting .455 in the past 11 games and was a few hits away from getting my Patriot League average over .300.
I made the move to left field from first base, allowing another, better bat into the lineup.
It was the second inning of the first game of a double-header that the Bucknell player hit a ball well out to me in left field.
I went back on the ball and, with the wind swirling, it changed direction on me. With no time to react, I jumped on the run and threw my glove up and to my left, catching the ball with the force spinning me around.
My left foot landed first with my whole body weight coming down on it and as soon as it made contact with the ground I knew something wasn’t right.
Our trainer came out to look me over, thought it was a hamstring pull and, with that diagnosis, I could stay in. By the time I was taking warm up throws the next inning, I could barely bend at the knee and I knew I couldn’t help the team so I asked the coach to pull me. There went my hitting streak.
Coach Kinney asked if I could be available as a pinch hitter in the second game and told me to stay loose. We hung on to win the first and found ourselves in a real dogfight in the second game of the day.
It was the top of the ninth inning with the game tied at four and two runners on base when I was asked to pinch hit. I limped to home plate amid less-than-sportsmanlike heckles from the Bucknell crowd. After a long nine- or 10-pitch at-bat, their closer hung me a breaking ball.
The sound of the ball hitting the bat turned into a bright flash as my leg felt like it snapped at the knee. Bucknell has a very large field and the ball sailed over the 385-foot mark, over the building behind it, landing in the street.
It felt like it took an hour to get around the bases but 30 teammates were waiting for me at home plate. Connor McMahon closed it out in the bottom half of the inning and we were one win away from making the playoffs.
I had done my part, but the team would have to do the rest to get us there as an MRI showed I had torn my posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and meniscus in my left knee. I was soon fitted with a brace that started at my thigh and went down to my calf.
I did not know if I was ever going to play baseball again. But, I have always been blessed with a flair for the dramatic in timely situations.
For more first-person accounts from Lafayette student-athletes, check out the Finish Line stories in The Real Deal.
My first swing of the bat as a college ballplayer resulted in a two-run home run against VMI in a pinch-hitting situation. After struggling at the beginning of my second year, I hit a three-run home run against Charleston Southern in the top of the ninth to win the game for us during our Spring Break trip.
I really could not even think that I may never play baseball again, but every doctor I went to said they could not operate on just the PCL.
After doing some research and speaking with some non-traditional doctors and professionals in the medical field, we found a way to try to get myself back.
I underwent a clinical trial for a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment and combined it with daily ARPwave treatments and physical therapy. By late June, I was limping around the field, getting a few at-bats for a local team in Bergen County, N.J.
By July, I was able to slowly run to first base. By late July, I actually ran from first to third in a game in the Cal Ripken League. Unfortunately, the progress went for naught, as the tear in my meniscus worsened halted recovery time.
Another PRP treatment and regular cold laser therapy treatments fixed it up and I was ready to go by February in my junior year.
It took another year for me to fully recover, but by the time I was getting up to bat looking for my 100th career hit, I was 100% ready. It probably is no surprise that that hit was the same as my first, a home run. Take a guess what happened in my final career at-bat?
I’ll be applying to osteopath schools this summer as soon as I get back from shadowing doctors in Portugal as part of the Atlantis Fellowship Project. It may not have been the long, consistent playing career I had hoped for, but I’ll definitely leave Lafayette with moments I’ll never forget.
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