By Joe Scalzo
For Drew Dosch, the first 20 minutes were the worst.
It was May 17 in the fourth inning of a Saturday game at Valparaiso. With one out, the Youngstown State junior laid down a sacrifice bunt — a pretty good one, he can’t help adding — and as he neared the bag, he saw Valpo’s first baseman reach across the line to try to tag him near the bottom of his legs.
“I was like, ‘No big deal, I’m just going to step over his arm and get to the bag,’” Dosch said. “When I landed, my [right] knee was completely locked out and caused it to hyperextend.”
That’s when he heard a pop. He tumbled to the ground, then tried to roll over and get up.
“And that’s when the pain hit,” he siad. “I was like, ‘This is not good.’”
He started rolling around in pain, with YSU’s trainer trying to get him to sit still. And that’s when a terrible thought entered his mind: “I just lost everything.”
“The first 20 minutes were just terrible on me,” he said. “I thought everything that I worked for over the past year, especially my sophomore year and the summer I had at the Cape [Cod League] just went out the window.
“But once I started talking to my family and the people around me and got through that first night — I had about two hours of sleep that night because of the pain — I kind of decided there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t run back down to first base again.”
As he waited to find out the extent of the damage, he started working with YSU athletic trainer Sarah Sydor, “who has been unbelievable for my mental attitude.” The results on his knee weren’t great — he tore his anterior collateral ligament — but his medial collateral ligament and meniscus were OK.
Today, Dosch will have reconstructive ACL surgery with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ medical director, Dr. Patrick DeMeo. There’s a chance he may have damaged his LCL (lateral collateral ligament) or one of his hamstring tendons, but he’s planning on a six- to nine-month recovery.
And that’s where things get sticky. Dosch, a two-time first team all-Horizon League selection, was ranked as one of the 15 best third basemen by Baseball America just before the injury. He likely would have been picked in the first five rounds of the MLB draft, which begins Thursday.
Now? Who knows? A lot may depend on today’s surgery, when Dr. DeMeo will be able to provide more information to teams.
“The draft is kind of out of my hands,” Dosch said. “The only thing I can control is getting the surgery done, getting my rehab done and getting my knee back where it was.
“I have faith that everything will work out, but we’ll see what happens. There’s no guarantee on anything.”
While Dosch’s injury came at a terrible time — YSU played just three more games after his injury — Penguins coach Steve Gillispie was impressed with Dosch’s attitude.
“Even on the day he got hurt, he said, ‘Well, we’ll see what it is and get it fixed,’” Gillispie said. “That’s the type of person he is. He’s extremely positive. There’s no crying over spilled milk. He’ll move forward and do what he has to do.”
If the surgery, or the draft, go poorly, there’s an outside chance Dosch will return to YSU for his senior season.
“You can’t rule anything out,” Dosch said. “Obviously it’s been my dream to pursue a baseball career. It’s what I wanted to do since I was 2 years old.
“Hopefully that opportunity presents itself, but with a [few days] left, I can’t put all my eggs in one basket.”