Freak Accident Leaves Tyler Palmer A Long Road To Recovery
Not often do the people attending a spring exhibition game for a junior college get to see a player who had been drafted in the fourth round the previous year.
But that's where a torturous eight months brought second baseman Tyler Palmer, who had been the 133rd overall pick in last year's draft by the Marlins out of Wayne County High in Jesup, Ga. Three days before he was set to sign with the Marlins, Palmer injured his arm in a freak accident. So instead of getting ready for his first professional spring training, Palmer is trying to get his career back on track at Oakton (Ill.) CC.
The crazy journey began when Palmer was trying to get into a friend's house. The door was locked but a nearby window was usually open. This time it wasn't, though, and Palmer broke it so he could get in.
A piece of the shattered glass went all the way through his throwing forearm, cutting all of his nerves and tendons on its way. In shock, Palmer felt nothing, even when he had to pull his arm up off of the glass again in order to be able to leave and get help.
"It was crazy," the 19-year-old said. "First we went to Memorial (Hospital), which is close to my house. They shipped me to Savannah, and Savannah said they weren't going to do the surgery because it was too high-tech for them, but they did it anyway. They ended up kind of messing up my arm, so I left Savannah that night, with my arm still all the way open, and went home. I woke up the next morning and went to Pensacola Beach to see Dr. (James) Andrews."
Though he had no feeling in his right arm, Palmer was optimistic at first that his injury wasn't as serious as it appeared to be, and getting back to baseball was the first thing on his mind.
"I was supposed to play in the biggest tournament there was that weekend," he said. "Right when it happened, I asked the doctor, 'Am I going to be able to play?' He said, 'Well, you might be able to DH.' They were amazed at what I could still do. In Savannah they said, after everything, that I would never be able to play ball again."
Not even a month after getting drafted, those weren't the words that Palmer wanted to hear, and he wasn't about to accept them. "It was awful, but I didn't believe it," he said. "I knew I would still play."
Andrews told Palmer that it would probably take him up to a year to recover, but that he would eventually be able to get back to baseball. Though baseball players aren't usually happy to see the noted orthopedist because it means they could be facing surgery, Palmer was happy to see Andrews.
"It was scary, but I wanted to get the best there was," Palmer said. "I knew he was the one and I got really lucky that I got him. The Marlins got me hooked up with him, and I'm really glad they did."
Eight months into his recovery, he has feeling in part of his forearm and is starting to feel numbness in his hand, a steady improvement from where he began.
The recent numb sensation in his palm has been the biggest sign that Palmer is improving, though signs of progress aren't coming along at a fast enough pace to satisfy him.
"I'm not really good with patience," Palmer said. "But I'm beginning to understand that I've got to have it. It's been really tough. It's been awful. I've been so depressed and stressed out. Even just trying to tie my shoes (at the beginning), I could hardly tie my shoes. Stuff like that is really hard."
Palmer, who had originally committed to Georgia, is slowly working his way back into the game at Oakton. A switch-hitter a year ago, he can no longer bat lefthanded because of his injury. With Oakton, Palmer has been mostly limited to the DH role and was hitting .364 through 77 at-bats. There's nothing wrong with his legs—he'd stolen 17 bases in 23 tries.
Once an impressive middle infielder, the loss of sensation has hindered Palmer's game in the field as well.
"I have to look the ball into my glove and I have to see it into my hand and then throw it, because I can't feel the ball," he said. "Hitting really hasn't been that big of a problem. At first I had to change my swing a little bit because I couldn't keep my right hand on the bat. But now it's gotten stronger, where I can keep it on the bat. And that's helped out a lot."
With hardly any muscle strength in his hand at the moment, Palmer's recuperation is far from complete. But with the progress he's made and the support he's had from his new school, Palmer is well on his way. Still being asked by scouts about his hitting and running, Palmer said he his draft dreams can be realized once again.
"My goal is to go into the draft this year," he said. "But if not this year, then the next for sure."