By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
He was trying to go from first to third on a ground ball in the second inning on March 10, a grounder that had been fumbled away across the diamond. That’s Calvary’s Drew Bickham for you; trying to take an extra base to get the team in better position to score.
But when he got about 10 feet from third base, he realized that he was going to be out. Because the throw back across the diamond had taken the Loyola third baseman into the base path, Bickham had to try to stop abruptly as he gave himself up for the tag.
Then he heard it.
Then he felt it.
And then he knew it.
“I guess I hoped for the best,” he says. “But I knew it was really bad.”
The pop in his right knee was unmistakable. Not only did third base coach Jason Legg hear it, so did the entire Loyola dugout. Bickham fell to the ground and by the time he got up, he knew his high school baseball career was over.
The guy who had been playing baseball for the Cavaliers since the eighth grade, the guy who had started on the mound in the first game that night, the guy who was hitting cleanup in the lineup.
If you want to say that Drew Bickham was the heart and soul of the Calvary baseball team, you would be wrong. Drew Bickham is still the heart and soul of the Calvary baseball team.
“It’s like he’s still playing, but he’s not,” says freshman Maddux Lyddy. “It means a lot that he is still with us. He gets hurt his senior year and he’s out there like nothing happened.”
But plenty has happened.
The result of the injury was a torn ACL, completely torn on the outside and slightly on the inside. There was nothing left on the lateral side. The cartilage in the knee has been scraped away. Bickham underwent a knee operation within two weeks.
The surgery repaired the knee. But it didn’t repair everything.
“A lot of mixed emotions,” he says. “I was definitely reflecting back a lot on the things I was going to miss.”
He puts his head down and pauses to gather his emotions for a moment.
“I was sad, but I think I knew at the time I was going to be OK. I just trust in God’s plan,” Bickham says. “The best thing about it is that I have no regrets. I knew that when they carried me off the field that night.”
Before each game, it is Drew Bickham who gives a speech to the Cavaliers before they take the field. He will do it again Thursday after Calvary, the No. 5 seed in the Division IV playoffs, travels to Ventress to take on fourth-seeded Catholic-Point Coupee in the best-of-three quarterfinals.
“I really just try to cherish my time with the guys,” he says. “You’ve got to help those guys and not worry about yourself. I cheer for the guys or talk to the pitchers and try to help them out. Just to bring a little life to it.
“I really try to be the best example to the rest of the team,” he adds. “Mentally, it was really hard. And it’s still tough, especially right now because I know I could be out there.”
Eleven months ago, Calvary teammate Lane Mangum lost his life in a boating accident and Bickham says that has influenced his perspective.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he says. “The reality (of getting hurt) hits hard, but honestly, it’s helped me as a person. That was his life; this is just one year of baseball. We can fix that. For me, life is going to go on.”
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Bickham