Baseball: Niles North’s McTague back in batter’s box
Skokie, 03/17/12--Niles North's matt McTague (35) pitches the ball at Saturday's varsity game against Northside at Niles North High School.
Updated: May 28, 2012 1:33PM
When he first learned he tore the MCL in his throwing elbow, Niles North’s Matt McTague was thankful he wouldn’t miss his entire junior season.
McTague still could be the Vikings’ DH, although pitching and playing third base were completely off limits.
But in early April, McTague was hit by a pitch and broke his hand. The injury — a broken third metacarpal — took even hitting away from the Niles North junior, and forced him to the bench for more than a month.
“It definitely (stunk) because this was my first time in my entire life I had to sit out because of an injury,” McTague said. “When I first tore my elbow, that was awful. Then I was like, ‘All right, I’ll be able to hit.’ And then I get hit on the hand, and it’s broken.”
McTague started for Niles North as a sophomore. He pitched and played third base, and was penciled in as the team’s No. 1 starter coming into this season.
If all goes as planned, McTague will fill that role his senior season. He plans on some soft tossing soon to slowly build back strength in his elbow, which won’t require surgery.
While the pain was a severe blow to McTague, being forced to watch his teammates from the dugout for more than a month was also disheartening.
“A month goes by, and I feel like it’s completely healed, but then it’s just a matter of getting all the doctors to agree to let me play,” McTague said of his hand. “So I was sitting on the bench feeling completely healthy, but still not being able to play, which is probably the most frustrating part (of this season).”
But now, McTague is back. He visited his doctor before a game against Maine East on May 14, and was cleared to play. He was inserted into the No. 7 spot in Niles North’s lineup, reclaiming his role as the Vikings’ DH.
McTague’s first three at-bats showed some rust. McTague struck out in his first plate appearance, and then grounded out in his next two.
His fourth trip was much different, however. McTague came up to bat with a man on third, one out and Niles North trailing 4-3 in the top of the seventh inning. With the infield in, McTague came through with an RBI single up the middle to tie the score, before the Blue Demons eventually won 5-4.
“My first at-bat, I wasn’t very comfortable,” McTague said. “I was trying to get my timing back and everything, and then as the at-bats went along, I got more comfortable. I was just looking for something where I could hit the ball on the ground (in the fourth at-bat), and I got lucky, I guess.”