Baseball player recovers from injury during summer league

BY AARON COOPER | JULY 02, 2009 7:20 AM

Many college baseball players are participating in summer leagues across the country for a variety of reasons. For Hawkeye catcher Tyson Blaser, this summer is extra important as he works his way back from a thumb injury that cost him 38 games of the 2009 season.

Blaser, who will be a redshirt junior next season, injured his hand against Louisville on March 14 while sliding back into first base. He tore the ligament that stabilizes the thumb completely off the bone.

The Taylor Ridge, Ill., native played through numerous injuries during the 2008 season, but the severity of this ailment called for immediate action if he hoped to be ready for 2010.

With the injury occurring early in the season, Blaser took a medical redshirt and opted for surgery as soon as possible. This meant he would still have two seasons left at Iowa and would have enough time to rehab over the off-season.

“He elected to have surgery right then,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “Had he waited, there was a chance he would not come back 100 percent. It would’ve been a lot more invasive surgery if he had waited, and he probably would’ve only come back at about 75 percent. That’s why he had surgery when he did.”

Blaser’s loss had a significant effect on Iowa’s season.

“I feel like that was a major loss for our program for a couple different reasons,” Dahm said. “No. 1, we had a very young pitching staff … and Tyson does such a good job of handling pitchers. Also, shutting down the running game. That was a major problem for us after we lost Tyson. … Also, he was starting to swing the bat pretty well.”

After surgery in March, Blaser is working his way back to full strength by playing for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League.

Competing on a daily basis against top college players from around the country gives Blaser the chance to rehab his thumb and work on his game.

“I think the time off hurt me at the plate more than in the field,” he said. “Defensively, I am bouncing back pretty fast. I am getting my timing back because I missed the whole season. I’m working on my footwork behind the plate, my throwing and also seeing the ball better at the plate.”

A .323 hitter his sophomore year, Blaser has struggled to find his stroke thus far, carrying a .191 average into tonight’s action.

Despite the numbers, Dahm is happy with the progress Blaser is making given the time off.

“He’s feeling good right now,” Dahm said. “He’s playing extremely well, staying healthy and catching well. He’s swinging the bat pretty well, too.”

His health is the top priority for the coach, because Blaser will be counted on to play a key role for a Hawkeye team looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2009 campaign.

“Our goal is definitely to be competitive,” Blaser said. “Last year was terrible, that’s all I can say about it. I think next year for us it’ll be to be competitive. To be right in there at the top of the Big Ten and contend for a Big Ten championship.”

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