You never think it’s going to happen to you.

Before suffering an injury, it’s common to take your health for granted. I sure did. Prior to blowing out my elbow and undergoing the infamous Tommy John Surgery, I felt like I was on top of the world. I was committed to play college baseball, had a promising senior season ahead of me, and thought I was practically unstoppable.

Boy, was I wrong.

I vividly remember the day I tore my UCL. It was the first game of my final high school season and I had been given the nod for the Opening Day start. Just a few hours after arriving at the field, I found myself having one of the best games of my life. That was, until, I threw that fatal final pitch. There were three distinct pops in my elbow, cracking like thunder in my ears. And suddenly, that was it. I was removed from the game.

Over the next few weeks, I became sick with worry as the doctors performed multiple tests and MRIs. When the results came back, I was in disbelief.

“You will never play again unless you have this surgery,” the doctor stated. “It will require a 12-18 month recovery and there isn’t a full guarantee you will play again.”

Ryan McCarrell pitching in high school.

Each word pierced my heart like a dagger. For a few moments I sat in disbelief, then I absolutely broke down. I cried for days after that. The most important thing in my life was taken away from me, and it felt like all my hard work had succumbed to this failure.

As I underwent surgery, and ultimately rehab, in March 2018, I felt lost and hopeless. I had dealt with depression before, but never like this. I cried out to God daily, but never felt like I was getting a clear answer as to why this was happening to me. And as time went on, my insecurities only grew. It wasn’t until May that God led me to a piece of scripture that completely changed my perspective, not just on my injury, but life itself.

2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

As I read this verse, I realized that there was still hope for me. Yes, I had fallen, but I did not have to stay down. God calls us to pick ourselves up and trust Him. When we do that, he supplies us with power and gives us strength when we have nothing left of our own accord. So I adopted that mindset and started working passionately toward a comeback, which carried me through the summer and into my first semester of college.

When I started my journey at Vanguard University, I began to realize that this game and my comeback is not really about me. I started working, not only for myself but, for my team and for the Lord. Along the way, my teammates have picked me up and encouraged me daily and, in return, I want to give them my all.

Not long ago, I would have been ashamed to redshirt my freshman year of college. However, now that I’m redshirting, while continuing to rehab, I’ve fallen in love with the process. I’ve also fallen in love with my team and have tremendous pride in my school. Together, we aim to play for God’s glory alone and I couldn’t ask for anything better.

Ryan McCarrell praying with teammates during pregame.

This summer, as my return to competition draws nearer, I’ve realized that the lessons I’ve learned throughout my recovery process are more important to me than playing baseball. Even if I never see the field again, I won’t regret a thing. Although I still consider baseball my first true love, my faith will always be my priority from here on out.

I feel both honored and humbled to share my story, partly because it has shaped who I am, and partly because it is about something that is bigger than me. As I write this today, I am not where I want to be, but I am so confident that I will get there because of the strength God has given me.

Truthfully, I don’t want somebody to hear my story and be inspired by what I have done or what I am doing. I want you to be inspired by what God has done through me. I will forever be thankful for what God has taught me through my struggles. The best part is, God’s goodness will not stop with my comeback; it will cry out into eternity, and all who embrace it will experience the same joy that I have come to know.

-Ryan McCarrell

Ryan McCarrell is a left-handed pitcher and redshirt freshman for the Vanguard University Lions.

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