Brandon Bailey has one main aim for Broomfield’s impending baseball season — help his team back to the top of Class 4A. But the star pitcher will play a much different role than he has been used to in the Eagles’ state title defense.
After a devastating injury to his throwing arm this past summer, Bailey will move from the mound into a full-time spot in the hitting lineup. Nixed from pitching or playing a position in the field until his arm is fully healed, the senior expects to take over as the team’s designated hitter for the 2013 season.
The switch from defensive to offensive specialist is a big jump, Bailey fully admits. But it is one the Gonzaga University recruit is embracing wholeheartedly.
“I’m looking at it as a positive and making goals for myself as designated hitter,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to prove I am more than a pitcher.”
Bailey underwent Tommy John surgery July 23, after injuring his arm at a Team 1 Showcase put on by the Baseball Factory in Costa Mesa, Calf. The torn ligament in his throwing arm happened in the second inning of the game at the event, but his doctor said it had its roots in the pre-season of Bailey’s junior year.
The times and dates of the injury mattered little to the pitcher, whose fastball tops out in the mid 90-mph range when healthy. What carried weight was the potential of the reconstructive surgery costing him his final season with the Eagles. So it was a relief in December, when his doctor gave him the OK for swinging a bat this spring.
“A week later I went straight to the batting cages and swung until my hands bled,” said Bailey, who finished last season with 1.02 ERA and 107 strikeouts. “But I couldn’t have been happier to have those blisters.”
Bailey is fairly certain he will be on the field this spring, but he said his college coach has the final say. The senior plans on calling Gonzaga skipper Mark Machtolf in February to get his final blessings. As far as where Bailey will fit into Broomfield’s lineup if everything is on the up and up, Broomfield coach Garren Estes is not sure.
“Really it’s too early to know,” Estes said. “We’ve got to see where all the pieces fit. But we’re always happy to have another bat.”
The loss of one of the state’s most dominant pitchers also has the coach scratching his head over his rotation. Outside of Bailey, the Eagles have only two players who saw any time on the mound — Angelo Perez and Todd Sena. The coach estimates the two had a combined five innings of work last season pitching. And he was already hesitant about Perez seeing much time on the mound, given he is the starting shortstop.
“We’ll see here in a month or so what we have to work with,” Estes said.
Batting practice has been a welcome diversion in what otherwise has been a difficult road back to the diamond for Bailey. Much of his time since his surgery has been spent in an arduous rehab regime. Presently, he is throwing three sets of 25 at 90 feet, but not at full speed. He hopes to regain his full velocity by August, when pitchers and catchers report for Gonzaga’s fall baseball season.
While the physical aspects of regaining his range of motion have been painful, the physical side of his comeback pales to the mental. One of the hardest parts for Bailey to gut is not being able to pursue one of his top goals of his senior year — the Under Armour All-American Game.
“But I was still an Under Armour Pre-Season All-American selection this year, which is a good silver medal,” Bailey said.
Bailey plans to make the most out of designated hitter this season and already has begun to hash away some personal goals. He would like to bat in at least 20 runs, finish the year with an average above .450 and collect his share of stolen bases. Chasing these down, he also hopes to earn a spot on the All-Northern League team.
Even if Bailey misses on a few of his goals, he said it won’t matter a ton. The most important thing for the Eagles is getting to finish his senior year with his team.
“What I’ve been through has been a humbling experience, baseball can be taken away from you in an instant,” he said. “Now that I’m getting back into the swing of things, I’m definitely not going to take anything for granted.”
Follow Elwood on Twitter @ElwoodKShelton.