Cameron Comer's world was falling apart.
Cameron Comer's world was falling apart.
Then a sophomore at Olentangy Liberty High School, he was given a three-word solution to an aching right elbow that no baseball player wants to hear -- Tommy John surgery.
Although the surgery usually is done on pitchers and Comer never had pitched much, he still needed the procedure that's named after its first recipient, former major league pitcher Tommy John, who underwent the surgery in 1974.
During the surgery, a tendon from the forearm, hamstring or foot is transplanted into the elbow of the throwing arm to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament.
Comer felt he had no choice. Without the surgery, he might never play baseball again.
"It's the kind of thing that means your baseball career was over if you don't get the surgery," said Comer, now a senior with the Patriots. "But then there is no guarantee. It's tough to get that surgery any time in your career, let alone when you are in high school."
The elbow discomfort started when he was attending a camp at Kent State in October 2012. He was taking infield practice at shortstop and felt a twinge. The pain got worse when he moved to drills at catcher. When the pain didn't go away, he went to get his arm checked out at Ohio State.
His mother, Sandy Comer, said baseball was everything to her son, and the news did not sit well with him.
"When the doctor told Cam there was a chance he would never play baseball again, his world was shattered," she said. "He was like a lump in the corner of the room."
After an Internet search for specialists, the Comers traveled to Cincinnati to get a second opinion from Dr. Tim Kremchek, who is the team doctor and chief orthopedic surgeon for the Reds. Kremchek performed the surgery Oct. 26, 2012.
"It's nothing for high school kids to get (Tommy John) surgery," Sandy Comer said. "Dr. Kremchek had a couple other (high school kids) later that day.
"But we knew Cam wanted to keep playing baseball and this was the only way. He worked hard to get back and he's made it."
Comer had to wait a year before throwing a baseball again. It was difficult for him, because he was used to throwing every day.
Still, he couldn't stay away from the game.
"Cam is a different kind of kid," Liberty coach Ty Brenning said. "We had a workout New Year's Eve (in 2012) and he was waiting outside for me to unlock the school for batting practice. He couldn't hit or throw or anything, but he wanted to be there when the team was working out.
"What other kid would show up on New Year's Eve when he couldn't do anything but sit and watch? That's Cam."
Comer said he had his arm wrapped "in an 'L' shape" to immobilize the elbow. After therapy three times a week until late February, he was ready to have his arm put in a brace to keep his elbow from hyper-extending. That allowed him to be the Patriots' designated hitter in his sophomore season.
"I was in a sling for roughly four months," said Comer, who batted .372 with 26 runs, 16 RBI, one home run, two triples and eight doubles as a sophomore. "My arm movement was restricted for those months and I was only able to receive my brace for DHing when I received full motion in my arm. I was fitted for my brace for baseball in the beginning of February, just before high school tryouts."
After the surgery, Comer became more detail-oriented, paying attention to his throwing motion and footwork to reduce the stress on his arm.
"Until it was taken away, I never realized how much I enjoyed baseball," he said. "I knew I liked it, but it was pretty tough without it."
Comer, who bats left-handed, played the outfield, catcher and shortstop as a freshman before moving to shortstop full time as a junior.
He was first-team all-state, all-district and all-OCC-Central Division last season, batting .465 with 30 runs, 25 RBI, nine doubles, five triples and 22 walks. Then in November, he signed to play at the University of Virginia.
Through 20 games this season, he was batting .440 with one homer, four triples, six doubles, 28 runs, 18 RBI, eight stolen bases and a .616 on-base percentage.
Comer has played only a handful of games at catcher since his freshman season, but that is the position he is expected to play at Virginia. To get more experience behind the plate, the Cavaliers want him to play in the Alaska Baseball League, a wooden-bat league for college players that begins play June 9.
"I pretty much have used wooden bats all of the time except for games, so I'm used to that," he said. "Probably being alone, away from my family, will be the toughest thing. Going from Powell to Alaska will be a pretty big jump."
But before making that jump, Comer and his Liberty teammates are hoping to make a long postseason run. The Patriots reached a Division I regional final last season, losing to Gahanna 8-4 to finish a program-best 26-6.
"As a senior group, we're all so close on and off the field," he said. "We can do something really special and I want to be able to enjoy every second of it."