SDSU baseball’s Tyler Adkison alters perspective after horrific injury

by Ryan Posner, Sports Editor

The 2015 baseball season was supposed to be a special one for San Diego State redshirt-sophomore outfielder Tyler Adkison

As a freshman in 2014, Adkison played in 52 of the team’s 63 games and batted .291 with a .361 on-base percentage.

Those kinds of numbers had him slated for an every-game role in the outfield for 2015.

Even his bio on the school’s athletics website had him listed as the probable starting right fielder for the upcoming season.

In preparation for his breakout campaign, Adkison was participating in one of the team’s regular intersquad scrimmages on Jan. 29, 2015.

During these scrimmages, it’s common for the team to work on situational defense, like bunting practice, in between innings before the actual scrimmage resumed.

So, Adkison stepped to the plate against the team’s unquestioned ace — and one of his roommates — Bubba Derby (who is now in the Oakland A’s minor league system) and was preparing to lay down a bunt, something he’s done countless times throughout his baseball career.

“I knew he was squaring around to bunt, so I wasn’t going up there trying to throw it past him,” Derby said.  “I was just like, ‘I’m going to throw it over the middle, let him make contact and then we’ll start the inning out.’”

What happened next, though, is something out of a baseball horror story.

Derby, who only throws a two-seam fastball that cuts in to right-handed hitters like Adkison, “let one go” as he threw a 70-percent effort fastball.

“I remember in slow motion just watching the ball keep tailing up toward his face and in my head I was saying, ‘Please get out of the way, please get out of the way.’”

Adkison wasn’t able to get out of the way.

The ball hit him squarely in the face, causing a double mandible fracture and a handful of shattering teeth.

“We knew that he lost a couple teeth, because we picked them up off home plate,” Derby said.

Adkison’s potential breakout season was put on hold. 

Not to mention, he had no idea of the injury’s effects outside of baseball he was going to have to tackle.

“I remember everything, I was conscious the whole time,” Adkison said. “I was trying to convince my trainer that I could still play and he was doing these tests on me and he told me no. I was trying to convince myself I was fine because the pain wasn’t horrible.”

With a mouth full of blood and some of his teeth sitting at home plate, Adkison was taken to a nearby hospital for X-rays.

Back at Tony Gwynn Stadium, it was still business as usual — sort of.

“I was just so mentally rattled after what had happened. After he got hit and left the game we started back up again and I was still pitching,” Derby said. “At that point I didn’t care, though, I just wanted to get to the hospital. I just wanted practice to be over. I just wanted to get in my car and go and see if he was OK.”

At the hospital, it wasn’t looking good. 

After an understandably sleepless night, Adkison had surgery on his jaw and had a couple of metal plates inserted.

His parents, who moved from Orange County to Idaho when he came to SDSU, took the first flight they could to San Diego and arrived after their son was out of surgery.

“I woke up and I couldn’t open my mouth. It’s a kind of feeling that I can’t even explain,” Adkison said about waking up with his mouth wired shut.

The recovery

He spent almost a week in the hospital after developing a post-surgery fever and, with his mouth wired shut, was not able to eat normally so he lost a lot of weight.

Outside of baseball, Adkison was trying to stay afloat with his grades in a challenging business program at SDSU.

Just like the weight, the grades dropped too. 

He’s since been able to get back on track, helping the baseball team keep up a GPA that was at an all-time program record last year.

After everything that happened, especially losing a potential breakout season, it’s expected that Adkison would be pretty peeved about the whole situation.

Right?

“I think that it was a good experience because I had time to not only think about baseball, but life in general,” he said. “It was basically like a pause button for a little while. I had a lot of time to sit back and collect my thoughts and think about what I wanted to do.”

The team officially redshirted him for the season, once they realized the severity of the injury.

Not being able to go on road trips with his teammates, who are like brothers to him, was a “tough pill to swallow.”

Getting back on the horse

The time came for Adkison to get back on the field in May and that came in the highly competitive Northwoods League, a summer wooden-bat league.

He was sent out to the league extra early to give him some more at-bats to make up for lost time, meaning he would miss the team’s NCAA Regional in Lake Elsinore.

He had just one request, though, for his summer ball coach.

“I told my coach that if we made it to the super regional, I was out, I was going to go to the super regional,” he said with a laugh, although the team did not make the super regional.

Stepping into the batters box for the first time, it was tough for him not to be mindful of the injury that had put him in the precarious position.

“It crosses my mind, but I don’t think it affects me. Before I get into the box I just have to convince myself that everything is going to be OK,” he said. “When I’m in the box I’m pretty much locked in.”

He was especially locked in during the summer, batting .271 and belting six homers in 51 games for the Eau Claire Express.

Now the next step will be translating that success from the summer back into Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Head coach Mark Martinez knows Adkison is going to be extra excited about stepping onto the field, and hopes he can hone that in.

“It’s understandable,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing will be getting him live in-game at-bats. Those are the kind of things you can’t recreate.”

Martinez expects him to contribute in the outfield and at first base for the upcoming season.

Adkison genuinely seems at peace with everything that happened to him.

He’s ready to move on to the next phase of his career, but there’s still one thing he’s waiting on.

“(Bubba) said he’d buy me In-N-Out after everything happened,” he said. “He still hasn’t gotten me In-N-Out.”