Nick Brady working on a new Wrinkle
By MIKE MURPHEY
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Nick Brady figures he’s been a pitcher since he was 6 years old. So long, anyway, that a million fastballs and sliders have demolished his right arm. The mound, though, still calls to him. So he says he will find a way to continue, even if he has to switch arms to do it.
Twice a week he rides his bicycle to a park near his home in Sanford, Florida, and throws baseballs into a hillside using his left hand.
“He’s got to be one of the best pitchers I ever saw,” says Joe Steffans who first became Nick’s teammate in 1968 when they were in the eighth grade. They were baseball and football teammates throughout high school, and then life took them their separate ways.
As a junior in high school, Nick was good enough, he says, to be invited to tryouts by the Dodgers and the Reds. That was the same year, though, that his arm started bothering him.
“When you’re in high school, though, you don’t listen to what the doctors say,” Brady recalls.
When the resulting injuries finally healed, “The only people interested in me were the coaches at Seminole Junior College.”
He pitched well enough there that, “I had a chance to go and play at a four-year school, but that was 1975 and there was a recession. I had a job, and a lot of kids who were graduating from college couldn’t get on. So I figured baseball had to take a back seat.”
He played softball until 1993 when he learned that someone was starting an over-40 baseball league and “I never played softball again.”
A couple of years later, Nick talked his old high school teammate into joining him on the baseball field again. And he and Joe have been teammates ever since.
“Over the years,” Nick says, “I probably pitched way too much and my right shoulder gave out when I was 58.”
Nick says he pitched a 9-inning shutout in their local league at the end of the 2010 season. When he tried to do a little throwing the next week, he felt numbness in his fingers.
Doctors told him he shouldn’t keep throwing.
He joined his teammates at the 2010 Roy Hobbs World Series, though, and by the end of the week, “I didn’t have the strength in my right arm to even turn on the ignition key in my car.”
Now, the doctors told him he had to give up the game. The only option, they said, was a shoulder replacement, and Nick didn’t like the odds they gave him of being able to play at all after that.
“When the doctor told me that, it was like a kick in the stomach,” Nick says.
“Yeah,” Joe says, “he moped around for 8 or 9 months, and then he came out with a shoulder harness on his right arm and tried to play outfield that way.”
That’s when he decided to learn to throw left-handed. The first thing he had to determine was whether his left shoulder could take the strain. He’d suffered a bad left shoulder injury playing high school football.
He hired a therapist to work with him on “several months of left-handed drills for me to get to the point that I knew my shoulder could take it.”
Then began his lonely, twice-weekly trip to the park, throwing baseballs against a hill. The effort was an exercise in frustration, patience and concentration, “But it finally started to come around, and I’m to the point where I think I can play the outfield halfway decently,” Nick says.
He will play left field for the Wrinkles in the 60-and-over division of the World Series this year. But “my long-term goal is to get back on the mound as a left hander at the Roy Hobbs World Series,” he said.
Joe says that Nick has amazed his teammates every step of the way in this difficult process, and they don’t doubt that he can pitch again.
“I always told myself I’d stop playing baseball when I was no longer able to contribute to my team, or when the game wasn’t fun anymore,” Nick said. “Well, it’s still fun, so it’s up to me to try and find a way to contribute.”