Monday , March 31, 2014 - 7:52 PM
NORTH OGDEN — Weber High School senior catcher Bridger Thorpe wasn’t supposed to come back so early. He was going to be lucky if he came back at all.
Seven months after offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and damaged rotator cuff in his right throwing shoulder, Thorpe is defying the odds by not only returning to the baseball diamond, but playing the only position he’s ever known.
Thorpe, 18, first started to notice pain during Weber’s two-game series against Layton near the end of last April, but because he could still throw, he continued to play — finishing out the regular season and playing throughout the summer.
The pain never subsided, though, and Thorpe finally went in for an MRI. Only then was the seriousness of the injury finally revealed. Not only had Thorpe torn his labrum, but he had also frayed the tendons surrounding his rotator cuff.
“At first it was devastating because pretty much all I’ve been doing is playing baseball year round, and when I found out it was torn, I knew I was going to be out for months on end,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe was also devastated by the idea of having to switch positions.
“With how bad the injury actually was, I thought that I was going to have to change positions, which was also devastating because I’ve had two brothers that have already caught for Weber High ... It’s all we know is catching.”
With the help of family and friends, including a brother who has gone through three shoulder surgeries — twice to repair a torn labrum — and a coach who tore his labrum in college, Thorpe remained optimistic.
“They just never let me lose hope that I was going to come back,” Thorpe said. “They always were there for me and they always believed that I would come back and be stronger than ever.”
Following the surgery, which took place on Aug. 27, Thorpe spent six weeks in a sling. During the first two weeks, Thorpe was barred from essentially any kind of shoulder movement. After the first two weeks, he was allowed to remove the sling for brief periods of time in order to work on his range of motion.
According to Thorpe, his range of motion was the biggest factor in determining how strong he’d be able to come back. Doctors estimated a 40 percent chance he would not be able to recover to his original strength because of the possibility of not regaining his full range of motion, and even if he was able to come back, it potentially wouldn’t be until mid-season.
Once the sling came off, doctors started to ramp up the physical therapy with Thorpe going in two or three times a week, doing some light weightlifting. This went on for several weeks, but only a month after the sling was removed, Thorpe had already regained his full range of motion.
On Jan. 1, Thorpe finally threw for the first time, throwing 25 times from 25 feet. After two weeks, he would increase the throws, make them longer and do that for two weeks. But he couldn’t throw every day.
“All winter I was throwing a day, then taking a day off, throwing a day taking a day off,” Thorpe said. “That was tedious because it was just like, ‘I want to throw. I’m ready.’ At that point, my arm’s not hurting, I wanted to throw.
“That’s the point where I just needed to have patience and just say, ‘If you want a full recovery, if you want to be back on time, you just got to be patient,’ and so I was just taking my time.”
Sticking with the plan, Thorpe eventually made it to tryouts – which came two weeks prior to the season opener – without any setbacks. Finally, he could really start to push himself. By that time, Thorpe was up to 25 throws at 90 feet and 35 throws at 115 feet. Once tryouts started, he could long toss from 125 feet every day.
Opening Day finally came, and Thorpe went 4-for-4 with a pair of two-run home runs.
Thorpe was just grateful to be on the field.
“I happened to have a good day, but when you’re out of a sport for that long and you have to sit out and watch your teammates, I was just grateful to be out there,” Thorpe said. “I’m happy it went well and I hope to keep doing well, but something like that just makes you happy for the grass that’s under your feet, and I was just happy to be out there and having a good time with my teammates.”
Thorpe is also grateful to have so much support from his coaching staff, family and friends.
“Coach (Mark) Larsen was awesome about it,” Thorpe said. “He still coached me and encouraged me, but he knew that I was the only one that knew how my shoulder felt and he trusted me… Really, he left the entire decision up to me. It was all my choice. He really put his trust in me and I respect that a lot because some kids are just going to tell you it feels good even when it doesn’t.”
Thorpe’s parents gave him the same respect.
“They knew that I wouldn’t lie about how my arm felt, and they knew that I was the only one that knew how my arm felt,” Thorpe said.
Larsen believed in Thorpe the entire time.
“Knowing the type of kid he is, how hard he works, how determined he was — I was confident he’d be back,” Larsen said.
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