Life can throw a knee-buckling curve ball. Just ask Carsten Bocchi.
He did it hundreds of times to unsuspecting hitters during his stellar baseball career.
But those devastating curve balls that earned the left-handed pitcher a scholarship to play baseball at Washington State University, the South Puget Sound League South Division’s Most Valuable Player in 2005 and led the upstart Todd Beamer baseball team to the school’s first-ever SPSL title has been officially put on the shelf for good.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Bocchi said.
Bocchi’s baseball career officially came to an end during the Cougars’ fall practice season in September because of complications from a blood clot that was discovered in his left arm during his junior year at Beamer.
“I came out this year and my shoulder wasn’t feeling good,” Bocchi said. “It just kept swelling up on me and I lost a lot of velocity. I threw a few times and my command was off and my arm would get sore for extended amounts of time.”
So Bocchi made the familiar trek to the doctor’s office, where he was told that he could keep playing baseball, but his left arm would require it’s sixth surgery in the last three years. And not your normal surgery, but an experimental procedure that had never really been done in the past.
“The doctor asked me if I wanted to do a surgery,” Bocchi said. “I didn’t even really know what the surgery was. But the rehab would be a lot of time and I didn’t want to risk it. I just said I might as well just call it quits.”
So that’s exactly what he did after plenty of soul-searching.
“I talked to my parents for a long time about it,” Bocchi said. “Then I sat down and wrote a two-page letter and sent it to all my family and close friends. It was really hard at first, but it was cool to hear from all those people after they got the letter.”
The problems with Bocchi’s left shoulder started just two days after pitching the Titans to a win over Kentlake in the 2005 SPSL championship game at Kent Memorial Park.
“We were at practice and my arm started to swell up and get huge,” Bocchi said at the time. “I showed it to (head coach Jerry) Peterson and he told me to go to the hospital.”
When Bocchi arrived, doctors took one look at his left shoulder and immediately put him on an ambulance and rushed him to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, which is the Puget Sound’s only trauma center. Bocchi spent two days in Seattle, hooked to an IV, receiving blood thinners for the clot that developed near his left clavicle.
Bocchi was released from Harborview after the blood thinners broke up the clot that was stopping the flow of blood to Bocchi’s left arm. The blood clot most likely came from shoulder muscles growing more quickly than his body could accommodate, Bocchi said.
“I was pitching with (the clot) for three months,” he said in 2005. “My arm would sometimes hurt after I pitched, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Doctors told me that if (the clot) would have chipped off, it could have gotten in my arteries and heart and it could have killed me. It was pretty scary.”
Bocchi finished his junior season at Beamer 5-2 as a pitcher with a 2.12 earned-run average and had 52 strikeouts in 43 innings of work. He also led the Titans with a .423 average with two home runs and 11 RBIs. Numbers that earned the left-hander the Mirror’s All-City Baseball Team’s Player of the Year.
After a injecting himself with medication during the summer of 2005, Bocchi was cleared by his doctors to start throwing a baseball again during the fall. After discontinuing the use of the blood thinners, Bocchi returned to the mound. But that’s when another setback occurred.
Just before the Titans played their opening game of the 2006 season in early March, Bocchi started feeling pain again in his left shoulder. He underwent arthroscopic surgery to correct the problem. Since that time, he has been back under the knife three other times to try and correct the clotting problem. Doctors were forced to insert a tube into Bocchi’s arm, slide a balloon into his vein and blow it up to clear the path for blood to flow.
It was during this time that Bocchi, one of the top recruits in the state, inked a national letter of intent to play baseball at Washington State for head coach Donnie Marbut.
But Bocchi would never throw a real pitch as a Cougar. He red-shirted last year after recovering from yet another surgery.
“The coaches were nice and understanding,” Bocchi said. “I sat down and told them and they were awesome. They got me a job with the baseball team. They wanted to keep me around and that meant a lot.”
Bocchi now attends every Cougar home game and asks as sort of a graduate assistant coach for Marbut. He even has his own desk in the Cougar baseball office and is in charge of entering recruiting questionnaires into a computer data base. Marbut also secured Bocchi a scholarship through the athletic department to help pay his way through Washington State.
“That was really awesome of him,” Bocchi said. “Two hours every day I do what the coaches want me to do. I’m still around baseball everyday, which was pretty weird at first because I wasn’t actually playing the game that I played all my life. I’m anxious to see where this leads.”
Bocchi is currently majoring in sports management at Washington State and hopes to secure an internship with the Seattle Mariners next summer.
“It’s been a pretty tough adjustment,” Bocchi said. “I don’t have to get up at 5:30 in the morning everyday to go lift weights and practice. That’s the stuff that I miss the most. But I still get to be in the dugout every game and the guys still talk to me like I’m playing.
“It is hard tough though not to be playing the game. I really miss the competitiveness.”
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org