All in the wrist
Pollock uses mental positivity to overcome physical injury
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 22:02
Matt Pollock stepped up to the plate 221 times in 2012.
It took him 221 at bats to smash 12 homeruns, 18 doubles and 44 RBIs. He etched his name into the baseball team’s record book and made himself known to not only UB and the Mid-American Conference, but also across the nation.
It was one ill-fated swing in 2013, however, that would suspend his athletic career.
Pollock tore his flexor carpi ulnaris (FCU) tendon in batting practice before the first game of his senior season in 2013. He missed almost the entire season – a year in which the Bulls had unprecedented success, winning the most games in program history.
Pollock, a senior outfielder, is returning for his final season after a medical redshirt in 2013. He is aiming to return to the level of play he demonstrated in 2012 and to help the Bulls enjoy the same level of success they had last season without him. The road back has been physically and mentally challenging for Pollock. He is just now beginning to learn to trust his swing again and not let doubts affect his drive to return to the player he was before the injury.
Pollock was a force in the Bulls’ lineup in 2012. His junior season was one of the best in school history – finishing top-10 in homeruns, runs scored, RBIs, hits and doubles in single season. He ranked in the top-30 nationally in slugging percentage and runs scored per game.
Before his senior season began in 2013, Pollock had pain in his left wrist from tendentious. He fought through the pain and went through batting practice before the Bulls’ season opener against North Carolina A&T.
“I took a bad swing, and the next thing you know my hand was just completely swollen,” Pollock said.
He played in three games but could barely hold onto the bat. An MRI exam revealed he had fractured the hamate bone in his hand. Pollock needed a small procedure on the bone that would keep him out for several weeks.
But when Pollock awoke from surgery, he learned he would miss more than just a few weeks.
During surgery, doctors discovered Pollock also tore the FCU tendon in his left wrist – a much more significant injury. He required another surgery and would miss the entire season.
As soon as he got the news, he called his mother, Donna Pollock.
“I felt so bad for him because I knew that it was his big senior year,” Donna said. “He went in for a supposed simple procedure and it turned out to be a lot worse than they originally thought. He was pretty down about it.”
He couldn’t challenge for the MAC Player of the Year award, break more single-season records and go out with the rest of his senior class in 2013.
Pollock could not even travel with the team. With his friends across the country competing, Pollock spent his weekends sitting at home and following the team online, checking live stats and reading up on the games.
“It was like the carpet was pulled out from under my feet and I lost all my friends,” Pollock said. “I was at home and they’re all out playing and having fun.”
Pollock’s wrist movement is somewhat restricted and he still feels some lingering pain. He wears two braces on his left hand, which conceal a four-inch-long scar from the surgery.
During winter practices, he had to learn to trust his movements again and not let the fear of re-injury hold him back at the plate.
“When you’re coming back from a physical injury, you always second guess your movements,” Pollock said. “You kind of have to start over from scratch and learn to be comfortable with yourself again.”
The injury was as taxing on Pollock mentally as it was physically. Being away from his friends and having doubts about returning from the injury took a toll on him.
“Sure, it was a physical injury, but you don’t really realize how hard it is to come back from an injury mentally,” Pollock said. “I was really down on myself. I was in a pretty rough place for a while.”
Pollock believes the key for him is to stay positive and not let doubts about his ability creep into his head. Those thoughts have hindered him before, but with his final season about to begin, Pollock believes he has finally overcome them.
“That’s definitely worried me in the past and it’s been a big culprit of my negative thoughts,” Pollock said. “I’ve tried to vanquish all those thoughts so I’m best mentally prepared as I can be.”