It takes some nerve to get back on the mound in your senior year after surgery.
But Chandler Paul has taken the mound again for the Keller Timber Creek baseball team.
Surgery was needed last November to repair Paul’s ulnar nerve in his right arm. That reconstruction cost him his junior year.
Now, Paul is serving as a reliever for the Falcons as they continue to battle for a playoff spot.
Paul had thrown in nine games coming into this week for 13 1/3 innings with five strike outs and an ERA of 3.15.
Being his first full healthy year to throw, Paul is trying to make the most of it. His personal goals are being measured by such stats as the number of walks plus hits.
But he’s already been pleased with his return.
“The biggest goal is to be able to roll myself out there and be healthy,” Paul said. “I definitely want to throw strikes and give the team a chance. I didn’t know what to expect after surgery.”
Paul was cautious about his baseball life after the surgery. He had heard many stories about how ulnar nerve surgery could end a baseball career. But he had also heard from some that they were able to come back with an even stronger arm.
His arsenal includes a four-seam fastball, a curve and a “circle-change” which he described as a change-up with a different grip where he cradles the ball between the laces.
The adjustments needed to throw his pitches took a little getting used to after the surgery.
“I had no feeling on the bottom of my elbow,” Paul said. “I had to get comfortable with it. My fingers would sometimes be numb, but I’m getting all that sensation back.”
The proper sensation has been something Paul has developed since the age of 2, when he said he first picked up a baseball.
Paul had plenty of family to teach him the game at an early age. His father played professionally in Sweden for a year before he returned to the U.S. to welcome his new son into the world.
An uncle, Brandon Murphy, also spent four years playing in the Montreal Expos system.
Paul had played third base until his sophomore year but has always enjoyed pitching because of the competitive nature of facing a good hitter.
Although he’s also had two starts this year, Paul said he prefers being a reliever.
“I kind of enjoy not knowing,” he said as to whether he’d be in the game. “It doesn’t give you much time to worry about it. If you’re in a tough spot and you get the call to get loose ... you just get ready to go in. I enjoy closing games out, too. In a big game, it’s fun to come in and shut the door for the team.”
Regardless, the mindset is to help get Timber Creek back to the playoffs for a third straight year.
“We made it the last two years in a row,” he said. “Now it feels like a tradition. We want to get back there.”