Back in the saddle

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DONS’ BASEBALL PROFILE:
Pitcher Matt Blanchard.

Matt Blanchard’s dream almost ended before he finished high school. As a junior at Mater Dei he tore the shoulder labrum in his right arm.

“It was scary to see life without baseball,” Blanchard said.

A torn labrum is the new, dreaded baseball injury, replacing torn elbow ligaments as the bogeyman lurking in the shadows of every pitcher’s mind.

The labrum is a ring of fibrous cartilage that surrounds the end of the shoulder blade and holds the head of the arm bone in the shoulder socket to act as a flexible ball-and-socket joint.

Athletic Trainer Gary Kinney has seen fewer than 10 torn shoulder labrums in his 30 years as a SAC Athletic Trainer. Blanchard is one of the few to return to the mound, throwing about 92 mph on his four-seam fastball.

Blanchard underwent surgery to repair the tear on March 4, 2010. He missed his entire senior season at Mater Dei and red-shirted his first year at Santa Ana College.

“It was brutal. There were lots of times when I wanted to give up. ” Blanchard said.

He credits part of his comeback to teammate and close friend, sophomore pitcher Ryan Chapman.

“When I first met Matt, it was painful for him to throw 60 feet,” Chapman said. “Now he is throwing over 400 feet during long toss.”

The two have been workout partners for three years. Blanchard and Chapman go through rigorous anaerobic exercises such as sprints, pull-ups on gymnastics rings and weight lifting in order to increase muscle explosiveness and strength. During the summer months when school, and the season is out, the two can be found in the Dons’ bullpen strengthening their arms.

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“During the off-season we work in the ‘pen about 20 hours a week for eight weeks,” Blanchard said.

Blanchard has specific pre-and-post-game routines, Kinney said. Instead of icing the throwing arm after an outing, like other Dons pitchers, Blanchard chooses to go with a deep tissue massage.

In his first season pitching for SAC, Blanchard compiled a 1.20 earned run average, while recording five saves in 30 innings as the Dons’ closer. He only had to pitch one-to-two innings at a time.

Three years removed from surgery, Blanchard is the ace for Head Coach Don Sneddon, leading the team with six wins and two complete games, while throwing 60 and two-thirds innings, twice as many as the 2012 season.

“Now that I am back on the mound I know all the hard work and time spent were worth it,” Blanchard said.

ROCK AND FIRE

  • March 2010: Blanchard undergoes shoulder surgery.
  • February 2012: Blanchard throws in a game for the first time since operation.
  • February 2013: Blanchard is the opening day starter for the Dons.
Starting pitcher Matt Blanchard returns from Shoulder injury: “It was brutal. There were times I wanted to give up,” Sophomore Blanchard said.

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