Carson Lumley underwent Tommy John surgery on his
pitching elbow last summer. Less than nine months later,
he’ll return to the mound — and on a big stage, pitching
for the Canadian Junior National Team at their spring
camp in Florida.
Article written by Paul Mayne- Gameday London
It was a warm summer night last July in London. Perfect weather for a ballgame. Carson Lumley was cruising along on the mound for the 18U London Badgers. He was in complete control. With two strikes on the opposing batter, Lumley looked in, got the sign from his catcher, and nodded. Fastball it is. Made sense. The lanky 6-foot-4 righty is known to hit the mid-90s with his heater..... Then, a pop.
“I remember it was the last pitch of the inning. I threw a fastball and my footing got messed up, and I think my arm over extended,” said Lumley. “All I felt was this pop in my elbow. Right away, I knew that wasn’t right.” The inning ended; his adrenaline was pumping. There was a bit of pain and discomfort in his arm, but at that point he wasn’t really sure what had happened. He went back out to the mound the next inning.
“I tried to throw again, but as soon as I threw that first pitch, I felt a sharp pain go all the way up my arm, and in my fingertips, and then it was, ‘Oh God, this isn’t good.’”
No, the news was not good. At just 17, Lumley would undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in his elbow.
“Right off the bat, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. It was pretty stressful,” the soon-to-be graduate of Mother Theresa Secondary School said.
For the next eight-plus months with recovery, it was a wait-and-see mentality. To add insult to injury, on the same day Lumley went under the knife, he received a phone call from Baseball Canada offering him an invitation to the Junior National Team development camp in Florida. To say the injured hurler was disappointed is putting it mildly.
That opportunity was something he’d been gearing up for throughout his time with the London Badgers.
“It was disappointing with all that was happening at the time, but I knew there was going to be another trip in April, so during that (rehabilitation) time it was my motivation to keep going and keep working hard,” he said. “I couldn't use my upper body, so I focused a lot on building up my legs until I could get back throwing again.
“I tried to look at it as an opportunity for me. As it kept going, and my arm got stronger and stronger, I started getting more confident. I’m at the point now where I’m feeling 100 per cent.”
And that excitement to get back on the mound will soon be put to the test when, for the first time since 2019, the Junior National Team program plans to conduct a full spring schedule with three development camp opportunities scheduled over the next few months.
That’s right, Lumley was re-invited to compete with Canada’s JNT squad – just eight months removed from his surgery. The 36- man roster was made official this week (it includes pitcher Liam Adamson, a local Great Lake Canadians player who was on the trip last fall with the Junior team).
The right-hander will head down to West Palm Beach, Florida with his teammates for spring camp and games from April 13-23. That’s where he’ll finally toe the rubber and see live action for the first time almost nine months. It’s a fantastic opportunity for his young career, but it also comes with a mix of emotions. Is he ready physically? Is he ready mentally?
“All those thoughts have definitely crossed my mind,” said Lumley, who turns 18 next month. “I was excited to be throwing again, but at the same time it was uncomfortable in the sense that my mind was thinking about what happened and that I don’t want it to happen again. But I’ve moved past that now and I’m pumped up to get back on the field. The other day I pitched to batters and I was so excited. I missed it so much.
“I wouldn't say there’s pressure on me (being part of development camp), but rather more excitement to showcase what I can do. As long as I go out there and do my best, and leave the rest up to them as to what they see in me, that's really all I can do.”
When Covid-19 became a global pandemic in March 2020, the Junior National Team program halted in-person operations. That lasted over a year, until a pair of camps finally took place last summer.
This month’s camp in Florida will take place at the spring training homes of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. Canada will have an 11-game schedule against prospects squads from the Astros, Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.
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A trimmed Canadian roster will then head to the Dominican Republic from May 11-21 for a 16-game schedule against MLB- affiliated academy teams who are part of the Dominican Summer League. New this year, the Junior National Team will also return to Dunedin, Florida in June for a pre-draft training camp to showcase their talents just weeks prior to the annual MLB Draft.
“I’m really looking forward to getting down there and having a chance to play with all the top players in the country,” said Lumley, who will be heading to Bowling Green State University this fall to study Physical Education. “And playing against pro players is going to be huge when it comes to helping my game. Plus, the coaching for Team Canada is tremendous so I can’t wait to learn from them as well.”
Lumley says having his dad in his corner to support him during this time – the highs and the lows – has been invaluable. Mike Lumley, a former pitcher who spent six seasons in the Detroit Tigers organization (including a stint with the London Tigers in 1992), is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to baseball advice and suggestions – particularly from one pitcher to another.
“I really don’t feel that pressure of my dad having been a pitcher in pro ball,” said Lumley, who will continue to play this summer for his dad, who heads up the London Badgers program. “I’m definitely my own pitcher. But with that said, there are so many things I’ve learned from him. Without him, there’s no way I’d be where I am today, that’s for sure. I appreciate all he’s done for me.”
So, as the warm weather of Florida beckons, Lumley will shrug off the few butterflies that will make an appearance the first time the umpire yells ‘play ball’ down south. Those are the words Lumley’s been waiting to hear for quite some time.....“I can’t wait.”