Craig For Austin Sadvar, there is only baseball.
The Moffat County High School senior has been playing since he was little, and since he first put on a glove, it was a year-round love affair.
“I love baseball more than anything,” he said. “It’s my life.”
But for the first baseman, his career was almost cut short.
Following Tommy John surgery in August, Sadvar said he never thought he would be able to throw, let alone play, again.
Sadvar got his start in baseball when he was nine years old.
“My first year, I was horrible,” he said. “I’m not one of those people with the God-gifted ability to throw the ball hard or smash it.
“Everything I have in baseball, I’ve had to work for it.”
But for the past seven months, Sadvar has had to work just to be able to play again.
He is coming off his second elbow surgery, which left the normally upbeat slugger with doubts about his playing future and a five inch scar along his right elbow.
The first surgery, which was to remove bone spurs in Sadvar’s right elbow, sidelined him for his junior year.
He was able to rejoin his teammates in last summer’s American Legion season, but a doubleheader in Grand Junction changed that.
“I was playing third,” he said. “I threw the ball, and it hurt a little bit, but I didn’t think about it.
“The next day, 10 Tylenol wouldn’t even dull the pain.”
After waiting, and trying out the elbow again, Sadvar said he knew his summer season was over.
“I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I was expecting the worst.
“I was thinking, ‘I blew my elbow out before my senior year — I’m done.’
“The second the doctor told me it was torn, I went into tears. It was a confirmation that I was done.”
Sadvar then traveled to Alabama for surgery with Dr. James Andrews — the doctor who made his name performing surgery on professional athletes.
The man who would be reconstructing his ulnar collateral ligament had performed the same surgery on athletes such as John Smoltz and Kerry Wood.
Andrews “grabs my elbow, twists it for 10 seconds and said ‘Yeah, it’s torn,’” Sadvar said. “I was like, ‘Oh, OK guru.’”
With the help of his father, Rich, who owns Craig Physical Therapy, Sadvar started down the long road to recovery.
“Andrews said that if I’m lucky, I could be back in nine months,” Austin said. “It hasn’t even been that long.”
With the season under way, Sadvar found himself in the gym while his former teammates were warming up in the batting cage.
He decided to step up to the plate — just once, to try it out, he said — and see what all of his hard work in rehab had amounted to.
“I took a couple hacks,” Sadvar said. “And it felt awesome. At that point, I knew I was playing.”
Judging by the early season results, including a 2-3, four RBI March 19 performance against Emery (Utah) High School, and the opportunity to play first base in the April 7 doubleheader against Uintah at home, the elbow is fine.
Although Sadvar said he still is thinking about his dream of playing college baseball, he said this year already has been a success.
“Even if I don’t play in college, it’s just great to be able to play one more time,” he said. “I never thought I would play again anyway.”
And he has taken on a new leadership role.
“As a freshman, I looked at the senior guys and said ‘Oh my god, I can’t wait to be one of those guys,’” he said. “Now it’s weird because I am those guys.”