Georgia Southern baseball player Victor Roache is rehabilitating after having surgery to repair a broken left wrist and he hopes to return for the Southern Conference Tournament on May 23 in Greenville, S.C.
"I would love to come back," the preseason consensus All-American said Wednesday at J.I. Clements Stadium after undergoing rehabilitative exercises while his teammates practiced nearby. "Just sitting out, watching my teammates play all season, is killing me. It’s really been eating at me. I would love to come back if I can. But Dr. (Thomas) Hunt, along with everybody else that I’ve talked to, said don’t rush back because you will hurt something in the long term.
"If I’m a little ahead of schedule, and I can start swinging a bat sometime at the end of (May), we’re going to see. It’s going to be really close."
Roache, a junior right fielder, suffered the injury while diving for a ball Feb. 25 in the second inning of the second game of a doubleheader against Radford University at J.I. Clements Stadium.
Roache had surgery March 1 at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala. The surgery was performed by Hunt.
"It’s a lot more complicated than (a broken wrist)," Roache said. "I’m not exactly sure of the whole doctor lingo but I broke my radius bone, for sure, three inches up from the wrist. I dislocated the distal radioulnar joint, the outside bone that connects the wrist and the hand. And I tore a lot of cartilage up in there, too.
"I have six screws and a metal plate on that broken bone. I had two pins going straight across my wrist for the joint that popped out of place. They went in there and cleaned up all of the scar tissue, they scoped it (performed arthroscopic surgery), and they put a little wire in there, too. But (Hunt) said the surgery went well. It was a pretty long surgery. It was three hours, so they were doing work for awhile."
Roache traveled to Birmingham, Ala., three times. During his third trip, April 18, his cast and pins were removed.
"Every time (Hunt) says, ‘You’re healing up perfectly. You’ve got to take it slow, and you should definitely be 100 percent healthy,’" said Roache, who is scheduled to return in a month. "He wants me to keep a steady pace."
Roache said Hunt told him that if he is too far behind or too far ahead in the rehabilitative process then Hunt will be worried. Roache attends physical therapy sessions three times each week in Statesboro. He said his short-term goal is to "try to be back without rushing it. It’s a real fine line."
If Roache can’t return in time for the SoCon Tournament, his GSU career might be finished. He might skip his senior season and turn pro, depending on how high he is selected in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft June 4-6. If Roache drops in the draft, he might return to GSU. He can apply for a medical redshirt.
"It’s an option," he said. "But we’re going to see what happens in the draft."
Coming into this season, Baseball America projected Roache would be the ninth player drafted. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior from Ypsilanti, Mich., led the NCAA with 30 home runs last season.
"The whole (draft) process will develop two, three weeks from now," Roache said. "When it gets to the end of May, that’s when teams are really going to start asking, ‘Where is he at? How far along is he?’ Teams, all they want to know is, from the doctor himself, is if everything went well, the surgery went good, and Victor is going to be 100 percent. That’s all they really want to know.
"A broken wrist or a broken bone doesn’t really scare too many (teams) away just because of the fact that those heal up. If it was like a knee, if I blew my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or something like that, it would probably scare some away. But a broken bone, they know it just takes time to come back. They’re still on board."
Roache said he instantly knew he had broken his wrist after diving for a ball.
"As soon as it happened, I felt my wrist bend in a really weird way," he said. "I knew I had broken something. It really went numb; so much adrenaline flowing. I tried not to look at it because I knew it was going to be bad."
Roache said his fear was confirmed when GSU center fielder Scooter Williams walked over, looked down at Roache and placed both of his hands on his hips and looked up at the sky.
"Scooter walked over to me and I looked at him, and I saw him do that, and I just shook my head," Roache said. "Luckily, Dr. (Don) Aaron (a GSU team doctor) was at the game because I did dislocate my bone. He was able to pop it back in place, which the doctors (in Alabama) said was very important because the longer that stayed out of place, the more problems could develop from that. I was lucky. He doesn’t come to every game. He just happened to be a this one, so I guess that was kind of a blessing in disguise."
Writhing in pain on the field, Roache said he feared his season was finished. He said he also worried about his future as a professional baseball player.
"A lot of stuff was running through my head at the time because I knew it was going to be a big year for me," he said. "My hitting coach and my dad and everybody that supported me was saying, ‘Don’t worry about anything (this season). Just go out there and have fun. Stay healthy.’ Everybody was saying, ‘Stay healthy.’ I was doing everything I could do to stay healthy. I was in the training room making sure my legs are good, my arm’s good, but it was just one of those freak accidents. I was just trying to make a play.
"I think the thing that hit me the hardest was when Scooter did come over, and I saw his face. Because before the season started, we were talking about how excited we were about it and how we were going to make this a really fun season, how we’re leaders on the team this year and how we’ve got a lot of good, young talent, and a lot of guys look up to us. We just had big plans for this year and, you know, just six games into the season it kind of ruined all of that. And he’s my roommate, too, so when we got back home it was even more depressing."
GSU lost five consecutive games following Roache’s injury. The Eagles fell to Radford and Mercer, and lost three times to North Florida. Roache said he could tell that the team had gone into a tailspin.
"I definitely could," he said. "It was hard watching it, too, especially for the guys you’ve played with like Eric (Phillips) and Ben (Morgan) and (Michael) Burruss. It was really hard coming to the field and coming into the locker room and seeing those guys. Every time I saw them they just shook their heads like, ‘Man.’"
GSU eventually emerged from its slump, winning seven consecutive games from April 1-11 against College of Charleston, Bethune-Cookman, Davidson, Kennesaw State and Jacksonville University.
"I knew they would, too," Roache said. "I didn’t know when, but I knew they would come out of it very soon. There was a certain point where they were like, ‘Alright, we don’t have Vic, but we’ve still got a full season to play. We can’t harp on it too long.’"
Roache traveled with his teammates for the first time April 6-7 for a series against Davidson at the request of GSU head coach Rodney Hennon.
"Coach (Hennon) called me into his office and said, ‘I’d love for you to travel. I think it would be good for the team,’" Roache said. "He was like, ‘If this is going to be your last season, I’d like to spend as much time as I can with you.’ I really appreciated that because I felt the same way. All the guys had been telling me since the beginning of the season, ‘We want you to come. We want you to come.’ So, finally, I got a chance to travel. I went to Davidson for my first road trip and had a blast."
Roache has traveled with the team ever since.
"He’d like to come back and be able to play this year," Hennon said. "But right now, who knows? We’re just kind of taking it day to day and seeing how he progresses with the rehab. And just kind of depending on the doctors and what they advise us on. There are a lot of things that will be in play. We’ll just see how he progresses."
Noell Barnidge may be reached at (912) 489-9408.