Blue Jays' Pompey staying positive through rehab stint for third concussion
Toronto Blue Jays' Dalton Pompey watches during batting practice before Game 5 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians in Toronto on October 19, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Charlie Riedel
Dalton Pompey needed an activity to quell his frustration after a fluke injury at spring training left him with yet another concussion.
The Canadian outfielder found a good one on the Gulf of Mexico.
Setting out on fishing trips with other injured Blue Jays like Devon Travis, Ryan Tepera and Ryan Borucki -- all also stuck in Florida as the MLB season ramped up -- Pompey started to relish the quiet time on the water, focusing more on the potential of a daily catch than his own unfortunate circumstances.
"You just kinda learn to enjoy it. It's quiet, you get your mind off things," Pompey said in a recent interview in Buffalo, where he's wrapping up his rehab stint with Toronto's triple-A affiliate. "You want to do anything you can to get your mind of (the injury) and move past the frustration because it's so easy to dwell on it, especially when you're down in Florida and you're done rehab by noon every day -- you have a lot of time to think about your situation.
"And with fishing, it's such an exhilarating feeling when you catch a fish. It doesn't matter if it's your first fish or your 10th, it still makes you feel good all the same. And that helped me for sure."
Pompey sustained the third concussion of his career when he hit his head on some bats that had been placed on the top of his spring training locker in March, days before the regular season started.
The Mississauga, Ont., native, who had never stored his bats that way, didn't expect them to be there when he stood up a little too fast and smacked his head on one of them. That impact knocked the rest of the bats loose, causing them all to fall straight down onto him.
"I felt fine at first, I was like 'man I kinda got my bell rung a little bit,"' Pompey said. "Within two minutes I had a pretty big bump on top of my head so I went to the training room and asked for some ice. They asked me if I was OK and I said 'yeah I'm good.'
"It wasn't until about five minutes later when I had the ice on my head that I started to feel dizzy and it just went downhill from there."
Pompey's rehab stint officially ended Monday and the Blue Jays need to make a decision on him soon -- either add him to the 25-man roster or designate him for assignment, which would expose the out-of-options player to other teams before they can send him back to the minor leagues.
"I'm just trying to be at peace with everything," Pompey said last week. "I'm here. I get to wear the uniform and I'm thankful for that.
"I don't know what's going to happen with my career going forward, but man, it's been an up-and-down roller-coaster and at the end of the day I made it through."
The 26-year-old suffered his first concussion in 2016 after crashing into a wall while making a catch in a triple-A game. His second came the following spring training after sliding into second base at the World Baseball Classic. While the symptoms of those concussions were similar -- "dizzy, light-headed, just generally not myself" -- Pompey said his latest head injury mainly affected his vision and depth perception.
For two weeks, Pompey did nothing but rest. Then the rehab began with light brain exercises like writing words in a notebook and reading sentences in a newspaper forwards then backwards.
He also travelled to Pittsburgh twice to work with renowned concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins, who has also treated Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and players on the NFL's Steelers.
"If I tore my hamstring I'm not just going to let it sit, of course I'm going to do physio and it's the same thing with your brain, you have to treat it like a muscle," Pompey said. "If you let it sit your brain is never going to shake the cobwebs off.
"So I had to do light exercises ... just basic stuff that you wouldn't even think about normally, and it was stuff I really struggled with."
Pompey said he started feeling "back to normal" a month ago, and began light baseball activities in early June. A couple weeks later he was playing rehab games in the Gulf Coast League before moving on to triple-A Buffalo on July 15.
While the physical rehab was challenging, Pompey said the mental side of sitting out three months of the season has been harder to get through.
He's still dealing with that.
"Something so dumb as hitting my head on the bats in my locker, when I look back it's just so unfortunate that that had to happen but at the same time, what can I do? It is what it is," he said. "It's hard not to dwell on things like this and being in Florida, being excluded from everything, it was hard mentally.
"It was hard being there and it's hard to catch up because I'm just starting when everybody else is in mid-season form. It's really draining mentally but all you can do is just try to stay as positive as you can."