Sophomore Alec Keeling is playing his final season at Valley college after four surgeries due to a torn UCL and a misplaced nerve during surgery in 2013.
By Joseph Gonzalez, Staff Writer
Utility player Alec Keeling has faced tremendous adversity throughout the years after undergoing surgery four times to repair his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
The first torn UCL occurred in 2013, while Keeling was pitching for Valley in a winter scrimmage game. He had Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL in February 2014. After the first procedure, the nerve was placed incorrectly, causing discomfort for Keeling’s elbow. He underwent surgery twice within the next two years to relieve the nerve displacement.
“I was 18 and dumbstruck because you don’t think you’re going to get injured when you’re playing,” sophomore Keeling said. “It also didn’t help, but at the time I was a little punk coming out of high school full steam ahead.”
Two years after his first injury, Keeling was able to take the field again as a Monarch to complete his comeback. His first appearance in two years came against Compton College on Jan 27. He would go on to pitch that season for the Monarchs, coming out of the bullpen as a relievers.
“After the injuries, it made me and taught me how everyday is a blessing. Each day I’m always given an opportunity to improve myself for tomorrow,” Keeling said. “I learned to slow down my perception of time and to appreciate the life I have on this earth.”
The road to recovery was not easy, as he took on many obstacles to get healthy. An UCL injury recovery time is 12-15 months. Not seeing results overnight is something Keeling knew to expect. He would do anything in his control to tackle the recovery and be in control of it. Along that journey he found out he needed patience to help himself and not rush things.
“After I knew I tore my ligament, I researched and did my homework to learn everything to know about the procedure and how to best treat my body to maximize the best recovery,” Keeling said. “Everything was so sped up and I was so unsure before my injuries, the physical therapy made me realize I was struggling in many other places.”
Grinding through physical therapy is something Keeling did to heal and make his elbow 100 percent, but one thing he did not realize was how strong this injury made him mentally. He grew as a human being and learned about himself, his priorities and became a better student, not just a better player.
“Another challenge as a student athlete was to stay focused on my grades when I was going through physical therapy,” Keeling said. “Sometimes you get so focused on the how your recovery is going you can easily forget about a couple readings or assignments.”
Experiencing this injury brought a great and positive mindset for Keeling. He wants to shine down on his teammates and be a great role model to them. Motivating others through his words and actions is something he hopes he can accomplish for his team this 2019 season.
“One of the biggest challenges is to make sure I don’t let my team down by letting my setbacks affect my role as a teammate,” said Keeling. “There are some teammates that right out of high school, or some who are dealing with other personal matters, so I must make sure I’m a positive role model in a way. Whether if it’s baseball related or to help my teammates out, if they have questions about a class.”