All good things must come to an end. For athletes, the close of a career doesn’t always come by choice, and the human body doesn’t always cooperate the way it’s expected to. In baseball, the 27th out comes a variety of ways. For Joey Perretta, the final outing came at the cost of his arm.
“I coach a freshman team at a local high school, I substitute teach, and.. that’s really it. Kind of split between those two things.”
Last March, Perretta was preparing for his second season of professional baseball. Only 22-years-old, the righty had wrapped up his rookie year in the Pecos League, and was preparing for the Road City Explorers, the East Coast Baseball League’s travel team. He only made it to the fourth day of spring training.
“My first outing, I blew out my elbow.”
This story isn’t new to the baseball world. Tommy John remains baseball’s most common surgery to take care of baseball’s most commonly injured area: the elbow. Peretta had two options. He could somehow conjure up the thousands needed to pay for Tommy John, or he could take the rehab route. The $50 per week independent league salary wasn’t going to cover the cost. Peretta chose rehab.
“It’s definitely better. I can still throw and function, it doesn’t hurt anymore, but to ever get back to playing at the high level it would need surgery,” Peretta said. “It kind of forced me to hang ’em up.”
The staff, facilities, and fan attendance in the independent league falls far behind that of Major League Baseball’s. Peretta had hoped, and believed for a short time, that there was nothing wrong. Remaining at spring training until the end of the week, the hurler had wished the inevitable wouldn’t become a reality. “You just go home,” he said.
Even with the facilities and staff that MLB has to offer, there’s no guarantee for a continuing career. In 2013, 40-year-old Ramon Ortiz took the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays after spending all of 2012 in the minors for one more shot in the show.
Ortiz made it. For all of 37 pitches, Ortiz had made it. Then came the 38th. Tears ensued.
“I saw him after it happened, in the training room,” Blue Jays’ manager John Gibbons said. “He has been at this game a long, long time. He has been a pretty healthy guy and this game takes its toll on you.
“That’s tough,” said Perretta. “It was a really hard time, because I was 100 percent going for it. My second year of pro ball, I was excited, and it was so abrupt that everything just kind of…happened.”
The choice isn’t always there for some players. They’re unable to get the surgery, to rehab through it, to make it. Pushing forward, seeing that first pitch slip from your finger tips in front of thousands of fans, that dream is often cut short. For others, its not a matter of wearing of bones, muscles and joints, its the battering down of the mind.
“I’d be the 35-year-old guy playing Indy ball but…” Perretta said. “You gotta be in love with the game. I think that’s when you realize that you don’t get excited to go to the field or go to practice, or put in the extra time that is actually needed to succeed at that level. You just kind fall out of love with the game.”
To be continued…