Return of Kevin Cramer boost for TRU WolfPack baseball (KDN Story March 27, 2013)

By MARK HUNTER Daily News Sports Reporter

Posted with permission of the Kamloops Daily News

Kevin Cramer #3 (Jan 5, 2011)

Kevin Cramer

Kevin Cramer’s stat line from the opening weekend of the Canadian College Baseball Conference season wasn’t bad – two-thirds of an inning pitched, one hit, no runs.

But the TRU WolfPack pitcher is most impressed with the least impressive number on the stat sheet: his one game played.

Cramer, 24, is back with the WolfPack after missing all of 2012 with a neck injury suffered in a freak accident in August 2011. His injury – he broke the C5 and C6 vertebrae – left him temporarily paralyzed, and required surgery.

Kevin Cramer answers a question

Cramer answers a question from Earl Seitz of CFJC TV

But there he was in Kelowna on Saturday, getting the last two outs in a 15-5 victory over the Calgary Dinos.

“I couldn’t be happier to be back,” said Cramer, a 6-foot-2 lefty. “It’s so exciting.”

Cramer and the WolfPack will continue their CCBC season at NorBrock Stadium on Saturday, when TRU takes on the Okanagan College Coyotes at 2 p.m., and Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs at 4:30 p.m. The WolfPack also will play PBA on Sunday, 1 p.m., and Okanagan at 4 p.m.

2013 Americans-John Apostolo, Kevin Cramer,Aaron Stutsman and Ray Chadwick

Cramer was one of four Americans who started this season with the ‘Pack (Andrew Snucins photo)

The Cramer injury happened during a day at the beach for the WolfPack.

A few of the players had built some sort of slip-n-slide that led to a jump into the water, and were taking turns on it. Cramer tried to clear a shallow point in the water, but came up short and crashed headfirst into the sandy bottom.

He immediately felt full paralysis, and only started to regain feeling a few weeks later. It was a scary situation for all the WolfPack’s players.

“He was close to never being able to walk again,” said TRU catcher David Hole. “To get through that goes to show that if you put your mind to something, you can get through anything.”

Cramer had a long road to recovery.

“I had one surgery – after Day 3, the swelling was down enough around my spinal cord that (a doctor) could operate,” Cramer said. “He replaced my C6 vertebra with a metal vertebra and fused it to the vertebra below it.”

Then he began work learning how to live again. He was taking steps about three weeks after the accident and, six months after, was on his way to a full recovery. He sat out the WolfPack’s fall exhibition season, and finally got back on the field in February.

“I started exercising in the middle of our (December) break,” Cramer said. “I was doing some post-rehabilitation workouts, jogging on the treadmill and doing light weights.”

Cramer’s not the only TRU player making his return.

Danny Moore (2012-13 A. Snucins)

Danny Moore (Andrew Snucins photo)

Righty Danny Moore, who missed the 2012 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery, is back, and chucked two innings in relief during the WolfPack’s 6-2 Sunday victory over Calgary.

Ray Chadwick without glasses (2012-13 A. Snucins)

WolfPack head coach Ray Chadwick (Andrew Snucins photo)

TRU head coach Ray Chadwick said Moore will return to a starting role over the next two weeks. Having Cramer and Moore back is a big lift for TRU.

“You wouldn’t believe how (big a lift),” said Hole, a 22-year-old Vancouver native. “Especially Kevin – he and I were roommates last year and watching him go through that was tough . . .

“Having Danny back – he’s been the best pitcher in the league for three or four years, and to get someone like that back is awesome.”

Tyler Lowey (April 23, 2012)

Former WolfPack player and now coach Tyler Lowey

Having players return from devastating injuries is nothing new for the WolfPack. Tyler Lowey, a former pitcher and infielder who now helps Chadwick coach, lost an eye during an on-field incident only weeks after Cramer injured his neck.

But Lowey, a Calgary native, was back on the field with the WolfPack last season.

“I’ve always been lucky – regardless of what goes on around us, I’ve always got a great bunch of kids,” Chadwick said. “We’ve got a great bunch of kids that want to play the game and know how to play the game. When something like that happens, they just want to keep playing the game.”

The WolfPack had a perfect season-opening weekend in Kelowna, winning two games each off Calgary and the Coyotes.

For a team that was supposed to feature a solid middle of the order and strong pitching, TRU got a little bit of everything in those four games.

Brent Carmichael speaks with Mark Hunter of KDN (Mar 27, 2013)

Brent Carmichael speaks with Mark Hunter of the Kamloops Daily News

It started with leadoff man Brent Carmichael, who went 4-for-9 with nine walks (giving him a ridiculous .769 on-base percentage), and continued with Brendan Reid batting .583 with five RBI and Hole batting .429 and driving in six runs.

This is a confident WolfPack team – and it’s having fun.

Brent Carmichael at the dish (horizontal April 27, 2012 submitted by Allan Douglas)

Brent Carmichael at the plate in last year’s CCBC playoffs (Allen Douglas photo)

“I don’t know if it’s confidence, but everyone has kind of gelled with each other really quickly,” said Carmichael, a 21-year-old outfielder from Victoria. “Everyone knows what their role is, and that makes us click.”

The WolfPack will play a 28-game regular season before playing host to the CCBC championship at NorBrock Stadium from May 9-12. TRU, which last won the title in 2009, has watched two other teams – the Vancouver Island Mariners (2010) and PBA (2011 and 2012) – celebrate championships at NorBrock Stadium.

“I wouldn’t mind winning in my last year, that’s for sure,” Hole said.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca