But that seemed to be OK with you when you heard he’d be missing this season with an 80 percent tear of his rotator cuff.
Comments on various websites suggesting he should just retire or find something else to do were plentiful. There was no sympathy to be found for someone who was so close to what he’d dreamt about since he first put on a baseball uniform…so close to that dream of pitching in the big leagues, only to have it taken away time after time after time through various injuries.
No sympathy for a fan favorite, no compassion for a man who wanted nothing more than to blend in; complete with trademark camo jacket and John Deere hat that capture the “every man” essence Horne gives off better than he may realize. The effort he put in wasn’t good enough. You didn’t care that he wasn’t out there trying to get hurt — obviously, that’s the last thing he wanted — you only wanted to tell him that he should give up on his dreams.
But for a while, Horne didn’t disagree with you. Just three seasons after winning the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year award while with the Thunder, the now-27-year-old thought about hanging it up after not being able to come back from two essentially lost seasons in 2008 and 2009.
“That will circulate through your mind,” he told me.
“It’s not a secret that I’m 27 years old and looking at a possible third arm surgery and looking at some substantial time down before I’ll be back to normal.”
Initially, Horne was scheduled to undergo his second major shoulder surgery, one that would have put his career in jeopardy. A consult with renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews would alter those plans.
“He basically said there’s guys that come back, but your odds get longer and longer each time you get one repaired,” Horne said.
“He knew some guys off the top of his head who had successful careers after two shoulder surgeries, guys like Jimmy Key and Al Leiter. But they’re more finesse pitchers is what I guess you would call it. He said he’d never seen me throw before, but everything he knew about me, that isn’t me. He said the odds were long to come back to my normal self.”
Following the consult with Andrews, Horne elected to instead undergo a relatively new series of treatments involving Platelet-Rich Plasma, more commonly known as PRP.
In the process, the patient’s own blood is withdrawn and spun in a centrifuge, activating platelets within the blood’s plasma. The activated platelets, which are then injected back into the affected area, are believed to aid the natural healing process of the body.
“It’s pretty new as far as the world of sports goes,” Horne said.
“The only guys I know of who’d had it were Tiger Woods for his knee and Alex Rodriguez for his hip. He thought if these treatments would take, it would greatly increase my chance of coming back to my normal self after the surgery. It’s basically a thing of what do you have to lose. If they don’t wind up taking, then I’m basically going to be a month or a month and a half behind on my surgery, and I obviously wasn’t going to pitch this year anyway. So it’s really not a big deal timeframe-wise.”
It is, however, a big deal pain-wise. When I first reported that Horne was choosing PRP treatments over surgery, he sent me a text that said he was in the most pain he’d ever been in. He stands by that statement and then some.
“It’s pretty miserable man, I’m not going to lie,” Horne told me.
“The second one was not as bad as the first one. I don’t know if it was that I knew what to expect or if some healing had gone on, I really don’t know. But the first one, that was no doubt the most painful thing I’ve ever been through. It’s not a comfortable process whatsoever. But it’s one of those things you’ve got to try. It’s like Dr. Andrews was saying, you’ll do whatever you’ve got to do to right your career and get it back on track.”
Horne is hopeful that’s exactly what will happen.
“There’s not a good of a chance that you’ll be able to come back just like you were before, but it’s possible, too,” he said.
“Maybe you can come back better. There’s a lot of possibilities, and you’ve got to be prepared for all of them. You just have to know it’s going to be a long road.”
PRP or not, Horne will likely have to undergo shoulder surgery, although the hope is that the treatments can significantly lessen the repair needed. Once on the cusp of pinstripes after a 2007 season that saw him lead the Eastern League with 165 strikeouts, his career now seemingly hangs in the balance of a cutting-edge medical treatment.
But Alan Horne has given you a reason to believe before. The Pitcher of the Year trophy that sits in his home is proof of that. Don’t be afraid, Yankees fans, to believe in Alan Horne again.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com