Aaron Meyer sounded upbeat as he headed for surgery Thursday morning.
But the former Belleville West second baseman was hurting physically and mentally after suffering a season-ending tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee in Missouri State’s 5-1 victory over Missouri on Tuesday night at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.
A recovery period of six to eight months is anticipated for Meyer, a senior from Millstadt who was batting .292 with 10 doubles, four home runs and 30 RBIs in 41 games, all of them starts, for the Bears (28-13).
“I’ve been better, but I’m hanging in there,” said Meyer, 22. “It’s a tough situation, but everything happens for a reason. It was kind of just a freak accident. I’ve accepted it now and I understand what the rest of my senior season is going to be, and that’s cheering my teammates on from the sidelines.
“We’re doing the surgery, then we’ll take it to rehab and go one day at a time.”
It’s a tough situation, but everything happens for a reason. It was kind of just a freak accident. I’ve accepted it now and I understand what the rest of my senior season is going to be, and that’s cheering my teammates on from the sidelines.
Former Belleville West baseball player Aaron Meyer on his season-ending injury at Missouri State
Meyer could have been drafted by a major-league team in June. But now, he isn’t sure what the next step in his playing career will be when he is cleared by doctors. He is majoring in sports administration at Missouri State, where one of his teammates is freshman catcher Drew Millas, a graduate of Belleville East.
“I really haven’t thought that far right now,” he said. “Right now, I’m still worried about our Missouri State season. We have a chance to do something really special this year. We have the pitching, we have the hitting, we have the depth, we have the coaching. This team is a real special team and we have a chance to make a run in the postseason.”
Meyer played in 187 games in his career, with 151 starts, and helped Missouri State win 141 games. The Bears won a school-record 49 games in Meyer’s sophomore season in 2015, earning the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and postseason championships before closing the season ranked No. 12 in the country.
A left-handed hitter, Meyer was injured in the first inning when his swinging bunt against a changeup from Missouri pitcher Andy Toelken rolled up the first-base line. Toelken fielded the ball and was reaching to tag Meyer when Meyer hopped out of the way. Meyer landed and crumbled to the turf.
“It wasn’t, by any means, a shove on (Toelken’s) part,” Meyer said. “It was just a freak accident. I’ve watched the replay over and over and it looked like anything else, like another step. But I remember feeling a snap and hearing it click. I went down and I couldn’t straighten my leg. I couldn’t bend it to a 90-degree (angle) or do anything.”
Meyer said he feels like he let down the team, even though the injury couldn’t have been prevented.
“I don’t think anybody would feel bad for himself in this situation,” he said. “I feel bad that it happened. I feel like I should feel – like I let my team down. But they have my back and I always had their back. As they carted me off the field, every single one of them came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this for you. We’re going to play the rest of the season for you.’ That meant a lot to me.”
Meyer gave fans a thumbs-up as he was taken from the field.
“I didn’t want people to think that it was the end of my career. I want to think about this as a minor setback,” Meyer said. “I definitely want to get back out there and continue to pursue my dream one day. That’s probably a while away now.”
Any time you see your son or daughter, or whomever, get injured, it’s tough. In this case, with Aaron, it being his senior year and at this time of the season, it’s really a tough pill to swallow.
Lee Meyer on the injury to his son, Aaron
Meyer’s parents, Lee and Cindy, were at the game when the injury occurred. Lee Meyer was the baseball coach at West for 12 years before resigning in 2014. He also played at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
“Any time you see your son or daughter, or whomever, get injured, it’s tough,” Meyer said. “In this case, with Aaron, it being his senior year and at this time of the season, it’s really a tough pill to swallow. Knowing this team has had the success it has this year and the things it could do in the postseason, and him not be on the field and be a part of that, is really what makes this tough.”