Getting hit by a pitch is not uncommon in baseball, but when junior outfielder Josh Abegg was hit by a pitch, it was not something he could just walk off. It wasn’t a bruise, or a sharp sting — Abegg was caught in a baseball player’s nightmare, a potential season-ending injury. March 24 at Quincy University, Abegg was hit square in the jaw while attempting to bunt in the top of the eighth inning.
“He threw one high and in, and I tried to get out of the way, but it was coming in at 87 mph, and by the time I reacted, it caught me at the bottom left of my jaw,” Abegg says.
Abegg says it wasn’t too painful at the time because he was in shock. He says he was bleeding heavily and had chipped a tooth. After the game, he was rushed to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Illinois, where he had a CT scan and discovered his mandible, also known as the jawbone, was fractured in five different places.
Abegg was transported by ambulance to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis at 1 a.m., where surgeons performed the two-and-a-half hour surgery Abegg needed to fix his jaw.
“They wired my jaw shut and cleaned up everything,” Abegg says. “They put two plates in and a braces-like bracket on my teeth because I had two pushed back, kind of floating in my mouth.”
Abegg stayed in the hospital for another day but was able to go home and recover. He had a follow up appointment later in the week, and after eight days, he was cleared to return to class.
Abegg’s mother Laura Abegg says she and her husband attend almost every game of their son’s. This was one of the exceptions. This game was scheduled for later in the weekend, but the game was moved to Friday night because of weather. She was back home helping their other son move, and during dinner that night, her phone would not stop ringing.
“I finally stepped outside to look at [my phone] and noticed one of the other player’s moms was texting me asking, ‘Are you at the game?’ ‘Did you see what’s going on?’ and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh did he make a homerun?’’’ Laura Abegg says.
One of Josh Abegg’s teammates broke the news about the bad pitch, but as a baseball mom, Laura Abegg says she wasn’t immediately concerned.
Laura Abegg says she was told the injury was worse. She says she and her husband started driving to Quincy as soon as they could.
Laura Abegg says they got information little by little during what she says seemed like the longest drive of her life. They finally arrived and she says she was relieved to see her son still conscious and able to communicate by writing notes.
“It was devastating,” Laura Abegg says. “It took forever, and we couldn’t get there fast enough. And of course of all the games, why weren’t we there? We were feeling guilty, and it was very hard.”
Josh Abegg says he is well on the road to recovery, physically and mentally. He says he is currently running, lifting weights, throwing and hitting. He says his coach gave him a softball cage-like mask and a lower plastic guard on his helmet for extra lower jaw protection. He says he is ready to get back on the field despite the negative experience he endured.
“I don’t think it will be too bad, but that’s just one of those things that we’ll have to see how it goes when I step up to the plate,” Josh Abegg says.
Laura Abegg says the first thing he asked after surgery was when he could get back on the field. She says she was surprised to see no hesitation in his mindset and how ready he was to get back in the game. Laura Abegg says his confidence and the extra protection he will be wearing on his helmet will calm her nerves some, but of course, like any parent, she will be nervous.
“I am going to be totally scared — especially when he bunts,” Laura Abegg says. “I am going to be biting my nails, and it will be pretty hard for us, but any parent would feel the same way.”