The biggest fear any athlete has is experiencing a prolonged injury – to spend countless hours in the gym to perfect their craft and have it all falls apart in one play. One play that takes less than a minute but results in months of rehab.
Will Strauss, an infielder for the baseball team, has been training since the age 4. Last season, Strauss experienced an injury that prevented him from playing the rest of last season and continued into this season. Strauss remembers the exact play that caused him to experience a slap tear in his right shoulder, which is an injury to the glenoid labrum.
"We were playing Lancaster Bible," Strauss recalled. "I remember it was cold and that I was on first base. I started to run and remember my hand getting stuck in the dirt. I heard my shoulder pop and instantly felt pain."
Like any athlete, Strauss's mindset was to continue playing. However, as the game continued, Strauss could not throw or swing. He would come to find out in the next following days that thing every athlete feared. After nine months of surgery and rehab, Strauss was finally cleared to play. However, it's the mental game that has kept him from performing at the level he wants.
"I need to trust my body. I know that I have been cleared, but I am scared to get injured for the second time. That's something I never want to go through again. It was so long without baseball; I just have to trust that I am going to be ok."
Strauss struggled mentally with the sport he loves. His biggest struggle was watching his team play. Even though he has made the decision for a medical hardship waiver to get this season back, he still felt like a part of his career was taken from him. He missed out on being able to play with an amazing senior class, who were mentors for Strauss.
"When we were not playing well, I took blame for that. I didn't get to help and that was the most frustrating part about it. All I wanted to do was grind with my senior class, and I couldn't."
Although, Strauss has not been able to perform at the level he wants, he was able to make some memorable comebacks this season. In Florida, Strauss played in a JV game to get even more reps and start to build some trust in his rehab. He was third in the lineup and hit his first home run since being back from injury.
"I got pretty emotional running the bases. It was a feeling I have missed so much. In the dugout, I have never felt more supported from my teammates. A few of them even got emotional with me. I will remember that for a long time."
It's moments like those that have gotten Strauss through his injury. He could not have done it alone. His teammates, coaches, and doctors have ensured that he would get through this.
"My parents made sure that I had one of the greatest surgeons. I had never had surgery before so nervous was an understatement. I had an amazing physical therapist over the summer. I felt the grind and they pushed me to do that."
When Strauss got to campus, he felt even more support being around his teammates. His roommate, TJ McGuire, made sure that Strauss was always feeling high minded.
"TJ gave me so much advice. He went through a pretty serious injury too. He was always checking in on me and kept telling me, 'don't get frustrated it only goes up from here'."
The athletic training room has also made a significant impact on Strauss. They have been working with him for months making sure his recovery went as smooth as possible.
"They have been putting in a lot of work and effort for me. I appreciate it a lot. You can tell that they are passionate about what they do and that was very comforting for me."
Strauss constantly stayed positive and was always in the gym trying to get better. Head Coach Grant Neary believes that Strauss is one of his hardest working athletes.
"I had the same injury and I never came back from that and to me that speaks volumes about Will. That shows his dedication and how much work he is really putting in. Ultimately it shows his love for the game."
Strauss has made numerous contributions to his team while being injured. He knew that if he could not be there physically for his team, he wanted to be there mentally for them.
During the summer, Strauss plans to work even harder.
He plays for the Hamptons Collegiate baseball league, which brings in a variety of players from Division III through Division I. Strauss plans to get in the reps he missed out on this season. The most important thing for him is to get better. He has put endless hours in the gym and in rehab. Strauss couldn't imagine his life without baseball and he is willing to sacrifice anything for that. He plans to return with a starting spot and plans to continue to making huge contributions for his team. He encourages his fellow athletes who are going through a similar situation to remain positive.
"Trust the process. Trust that the work you are putting in pays off. Eventually you will get back to where you want to be. Embrace the grind, don't get frustrated. Keep pushing forward. In the end you will learn so many lessons about yourself, you will only get stronger from this mentally and physically. Life is hard and you only learn from that."
- Emma Lorenzen '21, McDaniel Athletics Communications undergraduate intern