Line drive fractured right-hander's skull last September
By Jason Beck
DETROIT -- Four months after Matt Shoemaker's nightmare on the mound, the Angels' right-hander was back on it Saturday. He was teaching, not pitching. He's looking forward to getting back to the latter soon.
As Shoemaker watched kids throw at his childhood friend and high school teammate Anthony Bass' pitching camp at Wayne State University, he chimed in with tips on mechanics and suggestions for tweaks. While Shoemaker was a guest instructor, he's very much a student of the game.
"Giving back is always great," Shoemaker said. "Hopefully a lot of the younger kids are getting something out of it."
Taking in actual baseball activity at Anthony Bass Pitching Camp at Wayne State, where Matt Shoemaker is a guest instructor. pic.twitter.com/gcC1386BRP
The 30-year-old, too, gets something out of it. He throws at Wayne State's indoor facility as well as at his alma mater Eastern Michigan University, allowing him to spend his offseason in his native Michigan without having to migrate south for workouts. The camps not only help the baseball program at Wayne State, Bass' alma mater, but a portion of the proceeds will also be distributed in memory of a fallen police officer at the school.
There's also a love for baseball, equally evident when Shoemaker works with kids as when he talks about getting back on a mound soon for the first time since a Kyle Seager line drive struck him in the head last September at Seattle, fracturing his skull.
In a couple of weeks, Shoemaker will step on the mound and throw before heading to Spring Training and facing hitters. He can't know for sure how he'll react, but he's anxious to find out.
"Anxious in a good way, I guess you could say," Shoemaker clarified, "because it's been a while. I've been on a mound but not throwing off a mound yet. Definitely looking forward to it."
Medically, Shoemaker said, he has been cleared through his numerous neurological checkups. He has been able to follow his normal offseason workout routine and hasn't felt any reminders of what happened. It only comes up when he's asked about it, but he's comfortable with the topic.
"The nice thing is mentally, I think I'm in a good state where I don't think about it," Shoemaker said. "It's like it's just something that happened. I'm thankful the recovery has been great, able to be back and ready to go."
This does not surprise Bass, who was finishing up his season in Japan when he heard about the line drive.
"He's a tough guy," Bass said. "He's out in shorts in the snow when it's 5 degrees outside. That's just how he is."
The one tangible change Shoemaker could bring to the mound is headgear. He has been in touch with Major League Baseball about a cap with extra protection, and he said he's considering trying out versions in workouts. He doesn't feel like he must have it, but he has seen the value of it.
"The good thing is that I'm not worried about wearing something," Shoemaker said. "But if it's going to fit and work and I'm not going to know it's there and it feels like a baseball hat, I'm definitely willing to wear it. …
"I know a lot of stuff is being developed. For me, everybody cares about how they look a little bit, but I don't really care how the look is as much as the feel and the comfort. Like, when I'm pitching, I don't want to think about it. So if that can be achieved with something, if something works, I'm willing to try it."
Shoemaker wants to get on a mound and essentially pick up where he left off. In a way, working with kids on their pitching helps him focus on his own and put his injury behind him.
Jason Beck has written for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.