Baseball: Niles North pitcher Raja recovers in time for All-Star Game
Niles North's David Schoenberg walks off first base after being tagged out during the Central Suburban League Senior All-Star Game at Oakton College on June, 6, 2012 | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:53PM
Mo Raja’s senior football campaign came to an abrupt end when he cracked his fibula two days before the start of the season.
Seven months later, his prep baseball career looked to follow a similar fate after Raja took a line drive off his right thumb in a game against Maine West.
Raja’s instincts kicked in immediately after being hit. He tracked down the ball, collected it and fired to first base to record an out. But, as he walked back to the mound, Raja witnessed the line drive’s effect on his thumb.
“I looked down and there was just blood,” Raja said. “At first I didn’t know it was broken, but there was a lot of pain and blood everywhere. I thought it was just a bruise or I broke a nail or something. But when I took the X-rays, my thumb was shattered from the top.”
Raja’s doctor delivered the diagnosis and, with about a month remaining before graduation, the senior pitcher learned he would miss the rest of the year.
Raja, who hit .278 and had a 3.00 ERA on the mound, figured his high school baseball career would also suffer a premature end.
But, as he wore a cast on his right hand and saw the season quickly ticking away, Raja never gave up hope. He stayed optimistic that his thumb could heal quickly enough to allow him to play in Niles North’s final home game.
“The doctor told me I was going to be done for the season, but as the season went along I kind of hoped to play in my senior night game,” Raja said. “I had already missed the senior night game for football because I broke my leg and I didn’t want to miss the second one in the same season. My goal was to just rehab and get back as fast as I can, and luckily the day before my senior night game, I got cleared by my doctor to play in the game. I was able to get back.”
Raja returned in a limited role, unable to pitch and searching for the timing he had before suffering his thumb injury. But Raja, unlike during his football season, played in the Vikings’ final three games of the season — a win over Maine East and two losses to Evanston.
He has a place waiting for him on Harper College’s baseball team, which typically would ease the disappointment of a shortened high school athletic career. But he was surprised to learn the Vikings’ regional semifinal loss to Evanston wouldn’t be his last time representing Niles North.
Raja was selected to the CSL Senior All-Star game despite missing nearly the final month of the season.
“I was really surprised,” said Raja, who is now fully healed. “It was an honor to be selected. I was really surprised after I got hurt because I didn’t get to play — I came back two games before the season was going to be over. But I was having a good season before I got hurt.”