By Ryan Kaczmarski
There was a point in Zachary Smith’s life when he did not know if he could ever pitch in a baseball game again. Now, he will be going into his senior season next spring as a college recruit of Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich.
Smith broke his arm pitching in a game at a college and professional showcase camp in his sophomore year of high school in Jupiter, Fla. After the injury, there was a question of whether he would ever pitch again.
“I started having pain in my elbow, so I went to the doctor and they told me it was tendonitis,” Smith said.
This was a few weeks before he was to pitch in the showcase game. He was told to give his arm a couple of weeks off to heal and it would be fine, but it did not get better.
“The very first day I was there (in Jupiter), I broke my elbow on the second batter,” he said. “I was just throwing a fastball and my elbow snapped and the ligaments tore off the bone because of a fracture. I went to the emergency room, and they told me it was a deep fracture and they sent me home.”
Smith was advised that there were alternatives to having surgery on his arm.
“I decided to go the nonsurgical route with it,” he said. “It ended up not healing right, because there was scar tissue growing between (the break), so that was a waste of five months.
“I went to physical therapy a lot, but my elbow was hurting really bad,” he added. “I was told I should go get an X-ray on it because it was hurting a lot, and the X-ray showed that it didn’t heal at all.”
After the five months of physical therapy, which did not work, it was decided that he should undergo surgery. Two screws were put into his elbow to help heal the break, and his arm was back in a cast. After the surgery, he would go through physical therapy all over again.
“I had the surgery in July of 2010, and could not do anything until October,” Smith said. “I did a lot of stretching, and they had me lifting under five pounds of weight and working with resistance bands.”
“It was not easy for him,” said his father, Kevin Smith. “There were times he had to use a JAS (Joint Active System) machine that he would strap his arm in and crank it to get his arm to go straight. I could see the pain in his eyes and face, but he kept with it no matter how tough it got, because it was always his dream to play college baseball.”
Around late November 2010 his arm was ready to try to start throwing some long-toss, which is not as strenuous as pitching. He started pitching from the mound in late December of that year, which was sooner than he wanted.
“I started pitching early, so I could make some videos of myself for recruiting purposes,” Smith said.
The injury made him miss his entire sophomore season and relegated him to the bullpen for most of his junior year, only starting two games at the end of the season. His record was 2-0 in those games.
Smith went on to play on a summer league team headed by Oberlin College’s head baseball coach, Adrian Abrahamowicz.
“He (Abrahamowicz) really liked me,” Smith said. “He’s the one who actually got me the try out with Siena Heights.”
After the summer, Smith played in a fall league that helped him get some innings under his belt and see how his arm had healed.
He is currently throwing a fastball (in the mid-80s), change-up, slider and curveball. He is not playing any other sports this winter. He plans on lifting a lot of weights and trying to build up his arm strength for his upcoming senior season for the Eagles.
“It’ hard to believe that at one time we didn’t know if he would ever pitch again, and now he has accepted a scholarship to play college baseball,” Kevin Smith said. “We are very proud of him.”