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Senior Jackson Holtgraves and his father drove down to Wichita, Kan. on a Saturday morning around 6 a.m. for a baseball tournament in September of 2014. In the first game, Holtgraves was almost finished with warm-ups when he threw a ball from the outfield to a cut off man. That cut off man was Junior Cameron Fritz.

“Jackson was supposed to throw the ball to me,” Fritz said. “But instead of the ball coming towards me, it went to third base.”

The off-target throw was followed by a cracking noise in Holtgraves’ elbow. Holtgraves saw his arm turned completely sideways, and immediately, Casey Shaw, Holtgraves’ coach ran to get ice.

“Jackson immediately spiked his glove in pain,” Shaw said. “His arm dangled to his side. I ran out realizing something was very wrong. As I walked him up to the stands to find his dad, he was in panic at the state of his arm. It was swollen and I knew something major was wrong.”

Holtgraves and his father then went to the Wichita hospital to get a catscan, and they were back home in Kansas City later that day.

Four days later, Holtgraves had surgery performed at Olathe Medical, and a metal screw was placed into his arm. The screw being unable to break insured that no relapse would happen in the future. For the next month, Holtgraves’ right arm was held in a sling.

Three weeks after surgery, he began rehabilitation and training to get back on the field.

After having a sling for a month following the surgery, Holtgraves’s arm was stuck hugging the right side of his stomach. He didn’t move his arm for a while, so the first thing he had to do was loosen up the tissue around it in order to start throwing again.

A month later, in February, he started lightly throwing, but he didn’t start batting until April. Despite starting batting practice, throwing was the bigger challenge for Holtgraves.

“At first there was a mental aspect to it,” Holtgraves said. “After not throwing for so long, and the last throw I made was an injury, it was tough to make that first real throw.”

Holtgraves finished rehab in April and was cleared to start playing and working out by himself again, however, he had missed out on playing East baseball by a month.

Since then, Holtgraves has been personally working out an average of five to seven times a week, plus one to two team practices with the Barnstormers, his club team.

“He was so determined from the beginning,” Holtgraves’s mother, Lisa Holtgraves said. “First he needed to get full extension back, then the strength would come later. Jackson has always been into working out so I knew the strength would come back.”

Once cleared, Holtgraves jumped back into the game with little hesitation.

“I actually expected it to be much harder for Jackson to come back than it really seemed to be,” Shaw said. “It seemed like I was much more cautious than he was. I wondered if his arm could truly handle the stress of a full in-game throw, but he never seemed to question it. He is a very mentally tough and resilient player.”

With Holtgraves being fully healed, he made the decision to finish his club baseball season with the Barnstormers. Now, Holtgraves is ready to finish his career playing with the Lancers.

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Ellis Nepstad

Junior Ellis Nepstad is a designer and assistant broadcast editor for the Harbinger. Read Full »

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