Imagine if you got the opportunity to achieve something you never thought you would. After faxing setback after setback you finally got to where you want to be. Then it’s suddenly taken away. It’s something very relatable and hard to face, most of the time you can try again. When it comes to physical injury however, the odds are set against you. In the world of sports, it is tough to accept the injury that you have and truly try to come back. Carson Denham, a pitcher for the Arcadia University baseball team was faced with Tommy John two years ago after having a promising first year in the program. While gaining two years of eligibility, this still meant less time to play as graduation was coming up. On top of this, his father was fixing a roof while on a ladder 30 feet off above the ground, he then fell, breaking his back and fracturing his pelvis. His father had to learn to walk again, while also being in a pandemic. It was a journey to get to this point.
Carson’s journey starts his first year at Arcadia, he was a hard throwing pitcher that got a lot of playing time due to his ability to throw strikes and get people out. It was a good year, he succeeded a lot and was put into situations where he was able to shine, never experiencing really any harsh setbacks. He had a good head on his shoulders and was bought into everything that he was taught by his coach, which they loved as well. He ended the season with the 2nd most innings pitched on the team, which was an accomplishment for anyone in their first year.
Going into his sophomore year there was a lot of excitement, Carson knew that he was going to get significantly more playing time due to some of the upperclassmen leaving and he had gotten better. Because of soreness in his arm he was not able to have the start that he wanted to, he was limited to only 3 appearances as a reliever instead of the starter role that he wanted. He still was used successfully, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the season was shut down and everyone was not allowed to play.
After the season ended, there was a lot of doubt of when he would be able to play again. The only way at the moment was by playing summer baseball for his hometown team. During that summer though, the pain in his elbow still lingered. In one of his starts he was doing well, throwing hard, but in the 4th inning he felt a pain that he had never felt before. He described the pain stating “it was like I got shot in the arm and couldn’t use it to throw again.” On came a doctor’s appointment the next day to see if it was healthy. The results he got back from his MRI were not promising. He had torn his UCL. Something a pitcher or any person does not want to hear. It meant he could not throw unless he underwent surgery for it, and the recovery for it would take almost a year definitely. Mentally, this hurt Carson tremendously, at this point Covid was in full swing and he was already mentally hurt.
In September of that year, Carson underwent Tommy John surgery. That is when an unneeded ligament from your leg is taken out and put into your elbow to replace the torn ligament. At this point he knew that he was not able to pitch in the season coming up, and this affected him very negatively. It was a sad time, not being able to do much because he couldn’t move his arm fully yet. While having to do school online, not being able to go to practices and seeing his teammates, not being able to go out on weekends, and because he could not do the one thing that he loved doing, playing baseball.
Junior year was a struggle, for the beginning of the season, watching the games from the streams online made him happy, but it was bittersweet. During that year however, his father was fixing a roof one day on a construction job, -something he has done for many years. His father Ross owns his own construction company-, doing different jobs for people. That day he fell 30 feet off of the ladder landing on his back. He broke his back and fractured his pelvis doing this. It was a frightening experience to have as his son. When he got the call he didn’t know what to think. It’s something you would never dream of. This left his father critically injured, he was not able to walk. This crumbled Carson the way he saw this, he was going through something himself, and to watch his father get the worst of it made him feel scared.
While recovering from an injury of his own, Carson had to watch his father learn to walk again. It was hard to watch, he was going through his physical therapy while his dad was doing something he’d never imagine he would do. The motivation between the two was inspirational, going through it together and having each other’s back made Carson want to work harder and he did. His father made progress every single day until he could walk again.
Towards the end of the season Carson made appearances at the games and his father was able to as well. Carson was then allowed to start attending practices. Eventually he was allowed to throw by himself into a net, being able to do that was exciting. He was allowed to build himself up to going farther and farther distances while throwing. These small achievements day by day were things to look forward to. It made him feel like he was a part of the program still.
The summer goes by and senior year starts, academically Carson is a senior, athletically he is a sophomore. He was able to gain two years of eligibility because he had missed that time because of Covid and because of injury. At the start of the fall, he was still on a throwing program, doing all team stuff together but not being able to actually make throws to be safe. The camaraderie that he was able to have made it easier for him to get to know the underclassmen before the season actually starts. Being able to weight train as well was something that he was not able to do for a while, meaning he had lost some of the strength he had once before. It made his teammates want to push him more, and motivate him to be the same guy and better that he was before. During the winter he was able to do that, working out every day to achieve the same strength and stamina that he had his first and second year. By the time January had come he was ready.
First day of spring practice in 2022, Carson was able to throw his first bullpen since 2020. It was one of the most exhilarating feelings he had felt in a long time, it was the culmination of all the hard work that he had done before he had gotten to this point, but it was just the beginning. During this year coach Bryan Torresani had asked his players to give a “baseball testimony”, this was when you would explain to your teammates how you had come to love the game of baseball. He had gone in alphabetical order from first name, so Carson had gone in the first week. He decided to talk about how his father was his best inspiration for making him love the game. He said that it was the absence of not being able to play and missing something so much that made him appreciate it more. While going through watching his father learning to walk, he found the motivation to push forward. His father wanting to watch his games because of his love for him as well made him feel motivated to come back and keep going. It was a heartfelt message on how he felt on this subject.
Carson was excited for the next couple of weeks and his future. He was then going to face live hitters the Friday after he threw his first bullpen. This meant that he was able to throw to his own teammates, but having a batter in the box made it feel more special, he did very well and threw a lot of strikes, another milestone that he had gotten to pass. Weeks pass of success on the mound leading up to the first scrimmage outdoors on a real mound. During the first weeks of practice the baseball team is forced to play inside, so seeing a real baseball field for the first time that year was great. Carson took his opportunity to show the team that he could still ball. He stepped onto the mound and absolutely obliterated his own team, he struck out 5 batters in 3 innings. When he came off the mound for the last inning he said “I almost cried coming off, I didn’t think that I would get to this point and still be the way I was before.” That day he threw the hardest that he had ever thrown, 91 MPH, an achieving that not only is his personal record, but a speed that is clocked for major league players too. In division III baseball, that is not something you see everyday, and that was just in a scrimmage in the middle of February. Who knows what his limit could be, he hopes to keep on climbing.