Fort Lupton’s Scotty Sanders can talk about baseball with just about anyone. He can play it, too, from club ball in the summer to high-school ball in the spring.
But what may not be visible is what he had to do in order to play his senior year this spring. It started with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
“I decided to play football my junior year. It happened during the season,” he said. “I tore the labrum by dislocating my shoulder. Every time it would come back, it would rip on that muscle. When they went in, they made four incisions in my shoulder. When they got in there to fix the labrum, they realized my shoulder socket was also shattered.”
The injuries were to his right shoulder, and Sanders is a left-handed pitcher/first baseman.
“It didn’t create complications. You put an anchor in there, it holds everything together and, eventually, it heals back together,” Sanders said. “It wasn’t too big a deal with the shattered shoulder socket. But it definitely didn’t help out.”
“Going through it, I was really scared going into it,” Sanders said. “Looking back, I don’t remember. It was all a blur, trying to get in, get it done. I think the idea of them cutting me up is really weird. Surgery is just a scary thought. The doctors were good. I didn’t really sit down and think about them taking a knife into my skin. I have a piece of plastic in my shoulder is just crazy to think about.”
He can function, but he still has to be careful.
“They told me if I ever were to break this piece of plastic, I’d be in excruciating pain,” he said. “I don’t know how I can be in excruciating pain from something I don’t understand. The right shoulder feels just like my left one.”
Sanders said the day after surgery were “really tough” because of the pain. But rehab awaited just the same.
“I overheard some people talking, and they said labrum tears were some of the hardest,” Sanders said. “The pain was terrible for the first little while. I was in a sling for about a month. (Afterward), I was supposed to stay limited with my arm. But I was trying to loosen it up, just trying to get ready to go.”
Physical therapy was two sessions per week.
“it was tough. It was grindy .. the most boring exercises you could think to do on the planet,” Sanders said. “It was boring, repetitive. You’re asking your physical therapist, ‘Are we almost done?’ ‘Nope, you’ve got five more left.’ You go from the TRX rows to the overhead press to the deadlift to make sure you can lift weight with that arm.”
He and Legacy High School player Cole Jaeger were in physical therapy together.
“We used to throw. He was the first person I threw with after surgery,” Sanders said. “You’re going ‘bang, bang, bang, deadlifts. Oh Cole is here. Me and Cole are done throwing. Time to get set up on the pressure ice machine. Go do some pushups.’
“PT (physical therapy)? That was only the beginning,” Sanders continued. “as soon as the doctor told me I could throw, I was throwing. As soon as baseball kicked off, I was doing baseball practice. I was doing everything I could. But PT (Sanders singled out his therapist, Brooke Mansfield at Panorama Orthopedics for special praise) is what accelerated me through the process.”
On the road to the diamond
Sanders said he had concerns – partially as a joke and partially for real -- that he wouldn’t be able to play.
“At some point, that serious thought does creep into your head, that ‘are you ever going to be the same?’” Sanders said. “I knew I was coming back. I just didn’t know if I’d be the same. That was my biggest worry.”
Not only did he come back, Sanders thought he came back better than before.
“It was beneficial to tear my right shoulder. Muscles don’t develop if you only work one side,” he said. “If I would have only been doing things on my right side, I would have been strong on the right side but lost strength on the left by not doing both (sides). It helped me gain a lot of strength in my left arm. My left shoulder is stronger than it’s ever been. My right shoulder is as strong as it was before surgery. Before surgery, it was the best. The best baseball I played with summer, and it was with a torn labrum.”
Sanders has no limitations. He had two at-bats in a recent game against Weld Central, and Sanders said his arm was sore the next day.
“It’s nothing ice won’t fix. But it’s definitely weird to get sore after swinging a baseball bat,” Sanders said. “When I flex my arms, you can see how much smaller the ball of my shoulder is.”
“I was heartbroken to not play football and really heartbroken not to wrestle,” Sanders said. “Playing baseball after my season got cut short .. it feels amazing. It’s one of things I’m meant to do. It was weird when I first came back from surgery. Before surgery, I loved this game. When I stepped on the field the first time after surgery, I realized how much I loved this game. Extra special? Yes, but not for the reason most people would expect. It’s because of all the stuff the injury prevented me from doing in the first place.”