BRISTOL - Before the start of his sophomore year, St. Paul pitcher Dylan Gagnon tore his ulnar collateral ligament during a scrimmage against North Branford. The only way to repair the injury was to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Gagnon has made a full recovery and just finished up his junior campaign with the Falcons.
“It was heartbreaking,” Gagnon said. “I’m very passionate about baseball. It’s my favorite thing to do. It’s one of the things I’m best at. It was just tough with all the time it took. I basically had to go all the way back to first throwing again.”
Gagnon’s injury forced him to miss the entirety of his sophomore season, and the majority of his junior season.
Early on in his recovery, Gagnon underwent multiple tests to determine the condition of the ligament in his arm. Initially it was thought that he was only dealing with inflammation, rather then a more complex injury.
After hearing this, Gagnon started rounds of physical therapy, laboring over the course of three months, trying to regain strength in his throwing arm. When the pain continued after therapy stopped, Gagnon knew that his arm had not gotten better.
“My dad took me to a doctor in Shelton, and he (the doctor) ordered an MRI,” Gagnon said. “I went through two or three of them. Eventually the doctor called us back, and we went to see him.”
It was at this meeting that the young pitcher learned that his arm had a 50 percent tear in his UCL. His options were limited, but in order to play baseball again he had to undergo the procedure.
“They said the surgery would help, and if I really wanted to keep playing baseball I’d have to get it done,” Gagnon said. “Something switched my mind that I really needed to do this if I wanted to play again.”
Determined to return to baseball, Gagnon underwent the surgery in Florida, opting to have the operation performed by Dr. James Andrews, a world class orthopedic surgeon. He has been trusted to perform surgeries on famous athletes such as Bo Jackson and Andy Pettite.
Losing Gagnon was a tough blow for St. Paul. Afterall, he had come to the Falcons as a promising pitcher. Gagnon had made the varsity lineup in his first year, most notably pitching during the team’s championship run of 2016.
“It was exciting, and a little nerve wracking,” Gagnon said. “But, I went out there and did what I knew how to do best. I knew the coaches trusted me.”
The thought occurred to Gagnon that he might never be given that trust again. Falcons head coach Vic Rinaldi wasn’t sure either.
“We didn’t know how he would bounce back after a surgery like that,” Rinaldi said. “It’s tough for a major leaguer to come back from Tommy John, let alone a 16-year-old kid.”
Post surgery life for Gagnon was about returning to the shape he was once in. He spent the majority of his time away from baseball working to improve his body.
His hard work paid off. Gagnon’s road to recovery ended on May 28, when he took to the mound against Housatonic in the Class S tournament. With his family watching from the bleachers, he worked a strong inning of relief. Striking out two and allowing one hit in the scoreless frame.
Although the Falcons fell short of the championship round, Gagnon’s coach knows that his future with the Falcons is bright.
“I think he realizes he is going to be a big part of our pitching staff next year,” Rinaldi said.
“With the school year coming to a close, Gagnon will continue working on training, and focusing on getting himself in the best shape possible for his highly anticipated senior season.”