E. Lyle Cain, Jr, M.D.
To read the entire AL.com article written by Gary Estwick, click here.
Fear the Beard – that phrase should be Hewitt-Trussville baseball’s rallying cry this week at the state championship series.
It represents the resilience of the Huskies, most notably the courage and accountability of right-handed pitcher Cameron Moore, now about 15 months back from Tommy John surgery. He’s still not 100 percent, but each trip to the mound, perhaps each two-seem fastball, places him closer.
He also represents coach Jeff Mauldin’s occasional grooming deal with the Huskies: Lose a game, and be forced to shave. Keep winning? Feel free to keep the facial hair.
Superstition won’t let Moore trim.
So the junior with fluffy, facial hair akin to a senior enters Friday’s Class 7A state championship series against Auburn (32-11) focused on batters, not his former injury. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Patterson Field in Montgomery, though inclement weather is in the forecast.
This season, Moore has appeared in 11 games. He is 4-0 with three saves and a 1.39 ERA.
"So far, he's great. He's been getting better every time out," Mauldin said. "We treat him a little different during the week, see how he bounces back (from pitching) week to week."
Moore's grandfather would be proud.
On March 6, 2015, Hewitt-Trussville played Helena on a chilly Friday. He remembers wearing three-quarter sleeves.
"I could tell my arm was getting a little tired," he said. "Then halfway through the fifth inning, I felt a pop."
Moore didn’t think it was a big deal. So he continued pitching.
This time, he could not ignore his body. It was too late.
Two weeks later, he became the latest high school baseball pitcher to have the surgery. According to Birmingham-based American Sports Medicine Institute - the headquarters for Dr. James Andrews, an internationally-known orthopaedic surgeon, the number of Tommy John surgeries performed on youth pitchers at its facility has more than doubled since 2000.
Road to Recovery
The surgery was performed by Dr. Lyle Cain. Physical therapy was handled by Kevin Wilk.
"All he's done is push me, push me, push me, even on days I didn't think I could do anything," Moore said.
On these days, he thought: What am I working for? What do I want to get back to?
He remembered how he felt he let his team down, although the elbow injury was not in his control.
So he worked hard last offseason to make sure he could return for his junior campaign. After all, he was not going to let them down again.
Slowly, he returned to pitching. First, with a throwing program in early June, followed by light throws off the mound in late July, early August. As the months past, the intensity and pitch count increased.
His first game back on the mound for Hewitt-Trussville was Feb. 20 against Northridge-Tuscaloosa. He entered the game on a 15-pitch count.
Pitchers are known for their intimidation, their stares on the mound. Or mystery – what is he about to throw? But before that first pitch, it was Moore who was scared of a live batter.
"But after I threw that first pitch, all that fear went away," he said. "And after that, every inning I pitched was getting my confidence back.
"Everything is fixed. I just have to go out there and do what I have to do."
Moore entered last Friday’s 7A state semifinal against nationally-ranked Sparkman in the sixth inning where he sealed Hewitt-Trussville's finals appearance. Later, he was told that his fastball was clocked above 90 mph.
Every Monday, Moore participates in a physical therapy session to make sure his body survived a week of pitching without harm.
Moore is part one of the best, and youngest pitching staffs in Alabama high school baseball – six juniors and two sophomores. Sophomore left-hander Carson Skipper, an Auburn commit, set a school record with single-season wins (10-2). He also has two saves and a 2.00 ERA. Camerson Furr, a junior left-hander, is 7-1 (2.43 ERA).
At the plate, second baseman Tyler Tolbert, a UAB signee, is a 6A Player of the Year candidate. This season, Tolbert is hitting .451 with 32 RBI. He also set school records for hits (69), stolen bases (40), at bats (153) and runs scored (63). Sophomore shortstop Ed Johnson (.415 with 32 RBI) set Huskies mark with 98 defensive assists.
While Moore’s two-seem fastball is his bread and butter pitch, complete with velocity and movement, his curve and changeup are equally troublesome.
As a kid, Moore and older brothers, Cyle (now 19) and Colbie (23) spent hours swinging at an indoor batting cage his grandfather, J.W. Jones, built. He took his grandsons to his softball games where they hung out in the dugout while he played. All three boys have played baseball at Hewitt-Trussville – Cyle is a freshman catcher at Shelton State.
Mr. Jones passed in 2012. In his honor, Moore wears No. 22 at Hewitt-Trussville.
"Every time I go out, I think about him. I just want to make him proud. That last inning (against Sparkman), that last pitch, I just left like he was sitting there, smiling at me. It was a great feeling."
Then there's the beard. Moore said it adds a level of intimidation. After all, it's worked this season in Major League Baseball for New York Mets pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, he added.
Moore said he has grown his beard since Feb. 10, the last time he was clean shaven. On Saturday, he cleaned it up in anticipation for Friday's series.
Baseball superstition has helped Hewitt-Trussville reach the 7A finals, and Moore isn't going to throw it a curve ball now.
"He doesn't make changes, all the way down to what sock goes on what foot," said his mother, Christina Jones, in-between laughs.
Said Mauldin: "Some guys can’t grow (a beard) anyway. But Cameron Moore: he can grow one in 24 hours."
If – no, when – the Huskies when the school's first state baseball title, Moore plans to trim the hair on his head.
The beard? Hands off.
"I feel like you have to earn a beard, I guess, if you can grow it," Moore, 17, said. "So if you earn it, and you can grow it, why not?"