Aside from a minor ACL injury he suffered during his freshman year at Scotland High School, current South Carolina Gamecocks pitcher and infielder Curt Britt has been nothing less than durable throughout his career.
After battling through a case of strep throat in late August (his first week of college), this trend continued during the first few months of his freshman year, as Britt logged one impressive showing after another during inner-squad scrimmages.
But roughly two weeks ago, Britt attempted to fight off an inside fast ball from Gamecocks pitcher Josh Knapp when the ball struck the inside of Britt’s bat awkwardly.
Right away Britt knew something was wrong.
“The kid was throwing pretty good, and when the ball hit the bat it was immediate and terrible pain,” Britt said. “I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, but my hand was turning blue and I couldn’t hold onto the bat any longer.”
Britt returned to the dugout and told his trainer what happened. The trainer conducted a test on Britt’s right throwing hand by running a finger along his palm to test the severity of injury.
It was revealed that Britt had fractured the Hamate Bone in his hand, a common baseball injury suffered by former Gamecocks standouts Christian Walker and Jackie Bradley Jr. The injury required surgery and is expected to keep Britt sidelined until the end of November, when he expects to start throwing again. Stepping up to bat may take a bit longer.
“It’s tough luck but I’ll fight through it and come back stronger than I was before,” Britt said. “The coaches sat me down and said this injury is a blessing in disguise, because it came at the best possible time. Had this happened in the spring I would’ve missed playing time for sure, but now I have some time to rest up and heal.”
When the fall semester starts at USC, Gamecock baseball players partake in “Fall Ball,” an annual scrimmage schedule that sees players split into two teams and compete for bragging rights. The schedule involves five weekends of scrimmage games that occur on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and concluded last weekend.
Fall Ball was Britt’s first taste of collegiate competition for a team that has won two of the last three College World Series championships, including back-to-back wins in 2010 and 11. Britt shined against his fellow teammates, allowing just two hits and no earned runs in 6.2 innings of work, while also going 7-13 (.538) from the plate.
The Hamate bone that Britt broke in his hand on that fateful Friday is a hook-shaped bone located opposite the thumb and near the wrist area. Surgery involved removing the hook part of the bone from Britt’s hand and a smoothing out of the remaining bone.
When Britt went under the knife at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, S.C., the surgery performed also ensured that no tissue or tendon damage was incurred during the bone break. The surgery took just over an hour on the morning of Oct. 18.
Several other professional baseball players have had the bone removed throughout their careers, including Ken Griffey Jr., Dustin Pedroia, and Jim Thome. The condition is referred to as “Wilson’s Wrist.” The most recent Major League Baseball player to endure a Hamate bone break was San Francisco Giants’ infielder Pablo Sandoval, who bounced back from the injury in May to become the 2012 World Series MVP this past weekend.
Britt had a soft cast placed on his hand and wrist, and likely will have had it removed as of press time. Though the rehabilitation process will begin in the days and weeks to follow, Britt is still expected to participate in the conditioning exercises that his teammates endure four days a week.
“I’ve thrown a lot over the years, so this actually helps me give my arm a break,” Britt said. According to Britt, one of the Gamecocks’ workout drills involves a long-distance running program that has players run two laps around Williams Brice Stadium, the ramps inside of the football stadium and then several flights of stairs. All is completed within 25 minutes and without stopping.
“After my surgery on Thursday, I only had that weekend to take a break from everything. I won’t be getting out of any of the workouts,” he said.
Following the conclusion of Fall Ball, players will continue their own off-season training regimes until winter evaluations determine the roles that each athlete will play on the team. Team practices are expected to resume in January of next year.
Britt’s role with the team will be defined in the coming months. Until then, he looks to bounce back from what he calls a “minor setback” and continue advancing his dreams of one day becoming a professional baseball player.
And he also wants to enjoy more surreal moments like he did several weeks ago during the football Gamecocks’ home game against the Missouri Tigers.
“After the first quarter of the Missouri game, I got to walk out onto the field with the rest of the baseball team and get recognized,” Britt said. “It was an awesome feeling and it brought some serious chills. We were introduced as the 2013 Carolina Gamecocks, and it’s a blessing to be part of that.”