SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 7, 2013

Jean DePlacido column: Prep's Mackey not ready to give up on his dream

Jean DePlacido
The Salem News

---- — After two frustrating years, St. John’s Prep junior Brendan Mackey will have Tommy John surgery to correct the previously undiagnosed problem that has prevented him from pitching.

The southpaw from Danvers has been an all-star at every level, beginning in Little League where he led Danvers American to the District 15 finals in the Williamsport Tournament in 2009. He went on to play AAU ball for the Firebirds and later Legends.

Mackey started off his high school career with a terrific freshman season playing for coach Dan Letarte and received the Coaches Award. Things were going well for the young athlete who always dreamed about playing in college one day — and then misfortune struck the summer prior to his sophomore year.

“I was pitching for Legends in a tournament, and when I threw the ball I heard a loud snapping noise,” said Mackey, who will be a senior at St. John’s in the fall and carries a 4.2 GPA. “I knew right away something was wrong. It was such a loud noise that a kid in the other dugout heard it.

“It happened on a fastball and the ball went into the backstop. Initially I was unaware that you could break your arm pitching, but since then I have heard about a bunch of other kids having problems. I tried to come back a bunch of times, but each time I get real close it starts to hurt again.”

He was diagnosed with an Avulsion fracture, but a tear in the ligament was not detected.

Since the initial problem, Mackey has undergone MRI’s and been referred to three different doctors. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow last December and thought the problem had been solved. But just when he was ready to come back, the pain worsened.

His father Dan was able to have his son seen by Red Sox surgeon Dr. Luke Oh, who was the first to spot a tear in the ligament. He will preform Tommy John surgery on June 28 at Patriot Place in Foxborough.

Mackey, who earned the nickname “Hammer” in his Little League days because he was always a threat to hit one out as well as mow batters down when he was on the mound, has never given up on his dream of pitching again.

“I never once thought about giving up baseball; I want to play in college, and hopefully I’ll be able to do that,” he said. “I plan to go through all the rehabilitation under Dr. Oh’s supervision, then go to a whole bunch of showcases.

“I really wish I could have contributed more to my high school baseball team. That’s something I really miss.”

“Brendan is a pitcher with complete command of his pitches,” said Letarte. “His potential is unlimited. Part of baseball and pitching tends to be injuries. If he completely recovers, he will be a force.”

Mackey worked out with Chris McKenna at the Sportsplex in Danvers. He said that he was originally diagnosed with the fracture, but the UCL tear was missed.

“At some time the bone healed back correctly, but not the ligament,” Mackey said. “Once I have the surgery Dr. Oh said I’ll have an 84 percent chance to play again.

“It’s a relief to finally know what the problem is and get it corrected. I hope my story will help other young pitchers with arm problems. I never want anyone to go through what I have, but I’ve heard these types of problems are becoming more and more common at a young age.”

---

Hockey players at the Pingree School’s Johnson Rink can’t help but notice the new ‘Look Up Line’, a bright orange, 40-inch stripe painted all around the boards to help prevent injuries. The H. Alden Johnson Jr. Rink is the first in the nation to have this innovative safety feature and should be a model others follow.

The founders of the “Look Up Line” are Pingree graduate Thomas Smith (’08), who suffered two spinal cord injuries while playing hockey, Timothy Roberts of the Buffalo Sabres (’87), and Stefan Brannare of the Pittsburgh Penguins (’97).

They firmly believe the line will lessen the impact of dangerous plays. For young hockey players it serves as a reminder to lift up their heads and be aware the boards are very near, and for more experienced players it acts as a warning that harsher penalties for dangerous hits could be assessed in this area.

Orange was the color chosen because it doesn’t interfere in any way with the blue or red lines on the ice, and also because it is associated with caution and slowing down.

Smith has been very active in helping to prevent spinal cord injuries like the ones he suffered, and he founded the Thomas E. Smith Fight To Cure Paralysis Foundation.

---

Jean DePlacido is a long-time correspondent for The Salem News. You can contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com.