Former New York Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner took some time out to answer questions about his journey in baseball, Tommy John surgery, and his faith both on and off the field.
Once a promising young pitcher in the Mets organization, two season ending Tommy John surgeries have cut a sizeable portion of his career short. However, Hefner is not letting that stop him from making a comeback, and has used this off time as a way to grow as a person.
BREATHEcast: It seemed just when you were hitting your stride in 2013, you needed Tommy John surgery. How scary is getting that news for a pitcher and can you explain the injury as far as mechanics and how it affects you?
Jeremy Hefner: It is scary, but the way medicine (especially sports medicine) has improved so much in the last decade you know there will be surgeries and/or treatments that could return the athlete back to 100%. The inside of the elbow receives all the force when you throw a ball overhand. To do that repeatedly, with maximum effort stretches the ligament in a way that it is unnatural.
BC: The injury took you and Matt Harvey down almost together, and in 2014 you were both making a comeback. Then tragically, your arm gave out on you again. Can you describe those emotions, and which recovery has been more difficult?
JH: The second time wasn't as scary. Quite honestly I thought my career was over, by my own choice. I took a few months away from everything to spend time with family to decide a course of action. We decided to have the second surgery and finish my Business Administration degree. Both surgeries have had their challenges, but both have seen great opportunity to further develop my knowledge of the game, and develop as a person.
BC: Why do you think TJ injuries are as prevalent as they are now as opposed to even maybe 15 or 20 years ago?
JH: In my uneducated, non-doctoral mind, I think guys are bigger faster stronger and try to throw the ball at a maximum effort all the time. 20-30 years ago that wasn't the case.
BC: You were last on the Mets. What is the status of your baseball employment, and what have you been doing away from the game besides rehabbing?
JH: I am a free agent. My family and I live in Owasso, OK. I am finishing up my degree and rehabbing at Oral Roberts University. I'm enjoying being a fan of the game.
BC: The Mets are on quite a run right now, and they are filled with young pitching talent. Do you still communicate with guys on the team and what do you think of this 2015 ball club?
JH: I do. I am not surprised at the success the pitchers, and the team in general is having. I'm happy for the fans, who FINALLY have a team playing meaningful games in August and September. With the depth of pitching I would not be surprised to see a postseason run.
BC: What would you say is the highlight of your big league career so far? I know you had a great run in June of your last season, and even snuck in a homerun somewhere along the line...
JH: Two specific memories. The homerun is one, and the other is an almost complete game against the Astros four ays after my middle child was born.
BC: What first brought you to our attention is the tag "Jesus follower" on your Twitter bio. How important is your faith to you in your daily routines, and do you see opportunities as a ballplayer to express it?
JH: My faith is extremely important to me. I am completely aware of my depravity, and without Jesus I have no hope. No amount of Twitter followers, popularity contest, baseball accolades, or anything else this world can offer will ever be able to fill in my life what Jesus fills. I tried to play every game through the lens of Col 3:23. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..."
BC: The saying of 'it's all part of God's plan' is something people sometimes say just to say. However, in your unique situation of this journey in baseball, have you seen blessings spring up from other places because of your injuries?
JH: I don't have the finger stamina to type all that God has done these last two years. Family, friendships, school, coaching, service and list can go on and on.
BC: We are an entertainment site, so we have to ask, what's on your workout playlist and who are some of your favorite artists?
JH: I really like all types of music. NeedtoBreathe, Red, Chris Tomlin, Lecrae, United, are some of my favorites.
BC: During your time with the Mets were there team Bible studies or church sessions, and was the response by teammates generally received well?
JH: Baseball chapel is offered every Sunday in all cities. We would have to be at the park during normal worship hours, so baseball chapel was there to fill that void. Baseball Chapel is a great ministry to both major and minor league players. Providing strength and encouragement throughout the long baseball season.
BC: Toughest batter you've ever faced?
JH: Bryce Harper always gave me trouble.
BC: Funniest teammate?
JH: I don't know about funniest but the most fun was LaTroy Hawkins
BC: Most serious during a game?
JH: Matt Harvey
BC: Veteran who took you under their wing?
JH: Daniel Murphy
BC: Game 7 World Series, Harvey or Degrom?
JH: Again, Harvey
BC: Favorite baseball player, favorite team?
JH: Ken Griffey, jr/ grew up a Royals fan
BC: Greatest player you ever watched?
JH: When David Wright is locked in and healthy there isn't a better player on the planet. It was fun watching him day in and day out.
Stay tuned to BREATHEcast for more great interviews. Next MLB interview is with Steven Matz.