Stem Cell & Rehab BlogJanuary 30, 2012 - At this point I have to consider my stem cell therapy, along with the PRP and commitment to rehab a success. I’ve returned from winter ball where I had zero issues with my arm. I was effective on the mound and got some great feedback on the quality of my stuff from teammates. Now my agent goes to work and tries to get me either an invitation to spring training or a workout for some teams. I go to work too, getting in touch with contacts within the game, telling my story and asking for a look. It won’t be easy, but my confidence is soaring right now and Lord willing a door opens. January 20, 2012 - Back from winter ball, it went pretty well. Full Story. January 4, 2012 - I went down to the Dominican Republic to try out for a winter ball job. Full story. December 30, 2011 - My arm is feeling great. Afinal bullpen session before I leave for the Dominican Republic. November 10, 2011 - (16 weeks) Four months since I’ve had my stem cell injections and I am feeling great. I finally had a chance to see some hitters this past weekend. I got an email from a friend telling me about a charity amateur baseball tournament in my area put on by a men’s league. I have been so anxious to see hitters, any hitters, that I inquired about playing. They graciously accepted me. It was good for me to go through game prep and pitch in a game scenario, it has been over a year. The competition was about as you might imagine but it was more about getting on the mound and facing hitters. I was pleasantly surprised at how I felt. I was pretty sharp and the two seam fastball and curveball were just about where I think I need them to get pros out. I threw 3 innings and saw my fastball at 87-88 in the first and sit at 86 in the second and third. I’ll take that. I’m throwing from a side arm angle now and that velocity works as long as I have the movement, control, break and deception from the side for left handed hitters. I’d give anything to get in a camp right now. Getting 2-3 weeks to work with a good pitching coach everyday followed by a couple of weeks against professional hitters is the opportunity I’m looking for. I think I could get a little bit more out of my delivery but I’ve probably taken it as far as I can on my own, I need some experienced help. I’m low risk, low cost and I think worth taking a chance on. Not to mention 4 years younger than a LHR who just won his first World Series. I just need one of the 30 teams to think the way I do. How’s my sales pitch? October 24, 2011 - (14 weeks) Sorry for the long breaks in updates, can’t believe it’s been 5 weeks. Time goes by fast in my busy life. I’ve been off the mound probably 10 times by now. I’m fortunate to have a former Division 1 catcher around my age who lives near me. He works from home and loves getting the gear back on. He catches me 3 times a week, so I’m throwing bullpens M-W-F in the afternoon. It’s big for me to have him available to catch. Today was probably my best day off the hill. I had been having some concerns. I felt like my velocity hit a plateau and wasn’t where I needed it to be to compete professionally. The movement that I remember from earlier this spring wasn’t there either. The reality is it may take more time than I thought or it may never come back at all. But today was better and encouraging, I was finally seeing some late movement, something absolutely necessary to what I’m trying to accomplish. The velocity and life was better than it has been but I still have a little ways to go. Finding a place to play in winter ball is proving difficult. I’ve told my agent my desires, I have to assume he’s working hard at it. I’ve also contacted people I know who may be able to help me. If it doesn’t happen within the next 3-4 weeks it’s probably not going to happen. I very badly want to get in front of hitters and see if this arm angle is any good. Bullpens never tell the whole story, especially with something like this. I need professional hitters to stand in the box and I need to see how they react to my pitches. From a medical standpoint there is no doubt the PRP treatments helped treat my symptoms and the rehab exercises have given me the ability to throw again at near full speed. What exactly the stem cells have done is too early to tell. I think only an MRI can show what improvements, if any, have taken place. I had the procedure 3 1/2 months ago, I’d need to wait another 6-7 more months to really know. September 20, 2011 - (9 weeks) I’m in my second week of throwing a baseball and it’s going well. I’m anxious to get off a mound, probably will do so at the end of this week. Part of me is wondering if I’m rushing it too much and then part of me is reminded that the clock is ticking, rapidly. My career is pretty much in soccer’s version of extra time. I have to move forward aggressively if I want this to happen, at least I think I do. I’m throwing all of my pitches and I’m doing it side arm. It feels pretty close to where I left off in May, which is good. I’m going to do my best to not get too caught up in my velocity. I think that was part of my problem last time. I was seeing low 80’s in my bullpens which was fine for bullpens from the side (you almost always get 3-5 mph more in games) but I wanted more. I pushed and pushed and I really think that was a big part of re-injuring myself, that and getting a little lackadaisical with my shoulder maintenance program. I have to be careful not to repeat past mistakes. The ball is coming out of my hand well and I’m getting movement on my pitches, at least I think it’s movement and not gravity. I’m blessed to have my friend Paul Byrd here with me in Atlanta. We threw again this morning and he is a great resource for me and a great encourager. He squatted down and caught my flat ground work today, it’s just huge to have a successful major leaguer do that for me and give me feedback. He sent me this text this a little while ago: “Way to work this morning. I’m really impressed with your stuff from the side.” That means a lot. It’s easy to let doubt creep in while going through this. If all goes well on the mound the next step is getting to winter ball. This will be a small mountain to climb. I didn’t play baseball in 2011, I’m 38 years old, it will be hard to get a team to say yes. I have my sales pitch ready, hopefully it works. Found Don Kalkstein on Twitter yesterday. He is the mental skills coach for the Red Sox and Mavericks. I had a chance to briefly work with him in 2003 with the Rangers. First tweet in my time line after I followed him: “Make today a part of the master piece. Each day is as equally important as the next. Perform in the present.” I love that stuff! He’s going to be a productive follow for me. September 7, 2011 - (7 weeks) I’ve been cruising along with rehab and almost all of it has been encouraging. I’m in my 3rd week of throwing the football, supposed to be every day this week but I lost one day to rain. To be honest I’ve been getting tired of throwing the football, I don’t throw it particularly well and that can get frustrating. I’ve cheated a little by throwing a softball once or twice, despite my trainer advising against it. I’ve just been so anxious to get something round in my hand. I couldn’t help myself. I say that and all of a sudden my football tosses have been getting pretty good. Today I threw it for about 40 reps. I took a break after and threw a heavy baseball, 7 ounces, and it was the best I’ve felt so far. The heavy baseball feels good on the arm, especially after coming back from an injury. There’s something easier about throwing a heavier ball over a regulation one during rehab that feels right. Maybe it’s just easier to control or it feels good having the heavier resistance. I’m not sure, but I felt like I could have pitched today after working with that ball. My subconscious has totally been messing with me. I had a dream last week that I actually made it back to the big leagues, pitched 4 games for the Atlanta Braves and got released. I retired immediately. It was a huge disappointment. I had been thinking recently about how more often than not I’d put myself in a hole when starting a new season or going to a new team and when given the opportunity eventually pitch myself back to respectability. It’s happened numerous times over my career and I remember thinking in my dream I just needed a chance to get comfortable, it was frustrating. I had another dream that I was working out somewhere, not sure where, but was throwing to a professional catcher who’d been around and whose opinion I could trust. I want to say Johnny Estrada but I’m not sure. He was catching my bullpen and basically said what I was bringing wasn’t good enough, too slow, not sharp enough. I was deflated. Then I looked around and realized I was throwing from an 80 foot mound. I was able to get on a regulation mound and started throwing again. Suddenly the ball was jumping out of my hand and everything was tight. I was relieved and excited, my stuff was good and with it I actually might have a chance. Crazy brain. Truth be told today was a huge encouragement. There are ups and downs in a process like this but most of have been ups. Today I felt good about my chances of getting myself to a level where I can compete professionally. That is the goal, from there anything can happen. August 23, 2011 - (5 weeks) Peter Hughes, a trainer I’ve used the past 3-4 years, came into town today to work me out and check up on me. Pete was and still is John Smoltz’s personal trainer, they started working together around ‘97. I’ve been working hard and feeling good but you never get the same workout as when a trainer is there. We got after it today and I was really feeling it. The most noticeable difference was in the shoulder work. We did cardio, agilities and threw the football first. Then I went into my shoulder rehab. I fatigued much quicker than I had been. Pete would rather me train this way. On many days I’d do 30 reps for 2 sets using 2 1/2 lbs in my shoulder routine (10 exercises, 600 reps). Today I was feeling the burn around the 15-18 rep mark on most exercises and only did 1 set of each. It was discouraging but Pete sees it differently. If I was cruising along at 30 reps because I wasn’t doing all the work (cardio, agility, etc) consecutively then training this way gives me an opportunity to gain even more strength by starting my shoulder strengthening after I’m already fatigued. It makes sense, it is just a mental hurdle. We mixed up the throwing program too. Instead of getting caught up on distance, he wants to see me go in sets of 25 at a shorter distance, about 70 feet with the football. He focuses on my hips and how I use them to throw. He saw my hips lose drive after 20 or so and although I could still throw the ball decently he’d rather see me focus on about 25 throws at a time with good hip rotation. I’ll throw every other day for the rest of this week, 2 days on 1 day off next week and then everyday the week after that. When that is complete I’ll switch over to the baseball, assuming everything is going smoothly. CNN was with me again today getting “B roll” for a stem cell story they may be running in January. I’ve been on camera training before, it was around 2003 or so when I was working out with Clemens and Pettitte in the off-seasons. ESPN was doing a story on Roger’s training regimen and the workout routines Brian McNamee put him through. There is definitely something fun and exciting about getting filmed by a major network while you’re just working out. But it also got me thinking about how some famous people get addicted to the attention and how hard it is for them when it goes away. It’s easy to get caught up in the life and to let it consume you. I wonder if I could have handled major success in the athletic world? I’d like to think so but I’m not sure it’s as easy as it might seem. I think that is why I’m so impressed by highly successful athletes that stay grounded, Jim Thome and Andy Pettitte come to mind. Their success on the field was/is incredible, the people they appear to be is more so. August 18, 2011 - (Day 28, 4 weeks after the stem cell procedure) I officially started throwing today. I took about 30-35 tosses with the football. I stretched it out to about 70 feet. I felt good but didn’t want to be dumb, so stopped even though I wanted to do more. I threw with my wife, she’s a serviceable throwing partner. She’s been there for me a lot over the past 2 years when I needed a throwing partner. People always act surprised when I say I throw with my wife. She can catch & throw better than most men I know outside of baseball, at a petite but lean 5’4” you’d never know it by looking at her. She was a D1 softball player and a gamer. I have full range of motion but my labrum (front of the shoulder) has been a little sore. It wasn’t sore before the PRP so I know it’s because of the injections. I expect it to go away in a day or two. Full shoulder workout today, 450 reps just for my shoulder. I also did a push-up routine that was part of rehab last year. I’ll be fatigued tomorrow. My wife went to bed mad at me. She’s sleeping in the guest room with our 3 year old. Let’s hope it blows over by morning. August 16, 2011 - (Day 26) I was back at Dr. P’s office today geting my second round of PRP. It was a one day trip for me, flew out in the morning and I’m already back home. I’m pretty sore, similar to last time I was there but I don’t think it will last long. The crew from CNN was there taping most of what we did. I felt a little awkward walking through the airport being filmed. I tried to seem natural, it wasn’t easy. I’m hoping to be able to exercise lightly tomorrow and begin throwing by the end of the week. I’ll start with footballs. I was talking to a friend who had elbow surgery last year and recently got PRP to aid in the recovery. His doctor told him to take 3 weeks off from exercising and 6 from throwing. This is a stark contrast to what Dr. Purita told me. He said the earlier I can exercise the better. I don’t know if this is just two different schools of thought or different instructions for different injuries but I found the difference in instructions following PRP interesting. I’ll ask someone from Dr. Purita’s office about it and see what they say. August 15, 2011 - (Day 25) Hard to believe it has been over three weeks since I’ve had the stem cell procedure done. I’ve been working hard, doing my rehab and taking my supplements. The temptation to throw has been strong but I’ve held off, well, almost. I attended a Braves’ alumni weekend at Turner Field and Saturday included a softball game, the ‘91 worst to first team versus Braves’ legends. You know Murphy, Niekro and Nitkowski, all the names people think of when they think Braves. I was happy to be there and had a blast even though no one was there to see me. I’m OK with that, I got to play with my son on a big league field again, it was awesome. I couldn’t help but throw a little when I was there, just in case the opportunity came to throw someone out at home from the outfield I had to be ready. The opportunity never came but catch felt pretty good but I didn’t push it. Tomorrow I go back to Florida to see Dr. P and get another round of PRP. Both SI.com and CNN had asked if they could follow me around and take video of my day. I’m OK with it and Dr. P gave it the green light. It may be just one crew since they are essentially the same company. They’ll meet me at the airport. I get to feel important again. It won’t be anything like when I first landed in Fukuoka, Japan in 2007. I got the paparazzi treatment at the airport, which completely caught me by surprise, crazy flashbulbs going off. It was especially nice after a 23 hour flight itinerary. I looked lovely. August 7, 2011 - (Day 17) My shoulder is feeling pretty good, although I have had a couple of minor aches in my rotator cuff. I swear it’s from being on my computer more than usual and leaning my left arm on my office chair, I’m trying to make an adjustment. I continue to push myself with workouts. Prior to my shoulder work today I hit the spin bike for an hour and the Polar said I burned 850 calories, thank you Red Bull and 2 Excedrin. I sent some video to an old MLB pitching coach of mine back in February and he made a comment that he thought I looked in really good shape. I haven’t seen him in probably 8 or 9 years. As you get older you have no choice but to train hard and be in top condition. If you don’t your already slim odds of being able to compete with younger players get even smaller. I enjoy training so it’s not something I need extra motivation for, besides I fear the day my oldest son can beat me in one on one hoops. I won’t go down without a fight. August 6, 2011 - (Day 16) Surprisingly I’ve gotten some negative feedback from the scientific community about my stem cell procedure and SI article. The biggest complaint was that the procedure hasn’t been proven to work yet and “stem cell” is often used as a marketing term. Some guys got pretty heated about it. Not my fight, that’s between those in the community. My attitude is I don’t have the time to wait for the 5 or 10 year study to come out so I’m taking a chance now. August 3, 2011 - (Day 13) Sports Illustrated article went up today. I think it came out pretty well. Back is really sore today, might have overdone it working out yesterday. Upper back was a huge part of my rehab last time. Getting those muscles strong, especially the back of the rotator cuff is critical. July 31, 2011 - (Day 10) Rehab and training are cruising along, I have no pain and no weakness. Dying to throw but will play it smart. Set up my next visit to Boca for the next round of PRP in mid August. I’ll start tossing a football after that. No word from SI, maybe they backed out. I won’t bug them but if I don’t hear from them this week I’ll post what I wrote here. July 23, 2011 - (Day 2) Went through a workout today, amazed at my range of motion already, about 95%, little to no discomfort. I did my usual shoulder routine but instead of using 2 ½ lbs for 2 sets of 30 I did 2lbs for 2 sets of 15. I could have pushed it more but figured not to on my first day of exercising. I also hit the treadmill for 20 minutes, just to get the blood flowing, more blood flow more oxygen, better healing. Also worked light upper body. I feel really good, anticipation building to throw. I can’t believe how not sore I am. July 22, 2011 - (Day 1) Arm feels pretty good. Tight in some areas but so much better than the time I had PRP in NY. I’m convinced Dr. Purita’s method was more accurate based on my soreness alone. I have to pick up Shark Liver oil. Whole Foods didn’t carry it because apparently it’s not considered environmentally friendly. Took a shower and could wash my hair with both hands. I couldn’t do that for a week last time. It will be tough to pay tolls or go through a drive-thru for a couple of days though. I was even able to go through some shoulder exercises without weights. I am anxious to work out and am getting extremely optimistic. I put a phone call into Jeremy from Dr. Purita’s office. The directions on the L-Arginine were difficult to understand: Take one bi-layer tablet twice before going to bed. I only go to bed once a night, when do I take the other one? July 21, 2011 - Had the procedure done in Florida today. SI.com has asked me to write about the first hand experience. I put 2400 words together, guessing they cut more than half of it. Procedure was a breeze, will save the details for the SI article and then eventually post here.