BRADENTON — Not that long ago Austin Chubb’s luck was so bad it could’ve made him a candidate for The Guinness Book of World Records.
World’s unluckiest person? From a baseball perspective, he might have qualified.
What happened to Chubb most people wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. His body was so beaten, battered and broken it would’ve made for a good study in a pre-med class.
The Lake Mary resident came to State College of Florida to play baseball. But shortly after he arrived, the catcher began a journey that found him under a surgeon’s scalpel three times in less than two years for three different reasons.
A week before classes were to start in August 2007, Chubb had Tommy John Surgery, which involves replacing a ligament in his elbow that was replaced with a tendon from another part of his body. The long rehab involved forced him to sit out the 2008 season.
In the spring of ’09 Chubb was playing first base after catching the first game of a doubleheader in the early part of the season. On a bunt back to the pitcher the ball was thrown wildly forcing Chubb to reach out with his left arm. The base runner ran into his elbow.
Chubb hyper extended his elbow, fracturing a bone and tore the same ligament in his left elbow that he had surgery on in his right elbow. Since he was right-handed, he opted out not to go under the knife again.
Chubb managed to come back before the season ended, but only for a few seconds.
He was put in left field because of an injury to a teammate. On the first pitch, a line drive was sent his way. He dove for it and the ball caromed off the ground, hit him in the face and broke his cheek-bone in four places, shattering all the bones under his eye.
Chubb came back three weeks after surgery and was able to bat as long as he wore a special helmet with a facemask. He played in a few games and had a couple of at-bats, but SCF went two and out in the state tournament.
“It was hard to keep myself going, especially after the face thing,” Chubb said. “I was just man you’ve got to be kidding me. I couldn’t believe it and was asking myself why is this happening to me. Afterwards, I realized you need to look around and see how blessed you are. You think of other people who are struggling way more than you.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder made his comeback this season feel all the more sweeter when he played an integral role in SCF winning the state tournament and qualifying for the Juco World Series, which begins Saturday in Colorado.
“I can’t put into words what it means to experience all that I did, being here three years and then going to Colorado. When we won state, I was just crying and hugging my coaches. To go out like this is pretty special. My coaches have been really good to me.”
Nobody appreciates Chubb more than long time SCF head coach Tim Hill. He looks at his 21-year-old catcher and sees another coach on the field with intangibles you just can’t teach.
“He has been an impact guy behind the plate with his catching and defense. Austin is almost like a coach on the field,” Hill said. “He understands the program and has been great. He was up for defensive player in the year in our conference and should’ve got it. He has also been swinging the bat well, hitting fifth in our lineup and well over .300.
“To come back and hit after being out that long is difficult because you have to adjust to a different level of pitching here. He is our guy.”
Chubb is second on the Manatees with a .347 batting average and .431 on-base percentage, third with 36 RBIs and tied for third with four homers.
Austin’s father, Kevin, is pastor of a church in Lake Mary and his words and faith helped his son get through the rough times.
“I was mad at first, and my father and family gave me faith, and then I just realized how blessed I am,” Chubb said. “Some people might be born paralyzed and here we are complaining about a baseball injury. Sometimes you get so caught up in playing baseball, you take things for granted.”
Chubb has another problem that could come up, but it’s something that he welcomes to a certain extent.
His is the best man in his brother’s wedding, scheduled for June 5th. If the Manatees reach the championship game of the Juco World Series, they will be playing that day.
“Obviously, I will be in Colorado if we make it to the championship game, and my parents won’t be able to travel out there at all because they will be busy with the wedding,” Chubb said.
It’s something he will have to deal with, but overcoming obstacles have become commonplace for Chubb.