Sports Medicine Physical Therapist Helps Local Pitcher Chase Major League Dreams
Even when he was just a little kid, Matt Blackham had big dreams—dreams of one day playing major league baseball.
“I probably started playing baseball when I was about 3 years old,” says the right-handed pitcher.
Now playing “Class A” ball with the Mets organization, Matt’s road to the big leagues is paved with injuries, surgeries and countless hours spent in physical therapy, many of them right here with the Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Mercy.
“My injuries started when I was about 14 years old and living in Utah,” Matt said. There, he underwent a pair of arm surgeries after sustaining an injury to his growth plate.
A few years later, he relocated to the Kansas City area his senior year, playing for Olathe Northwest. Following high school, he pitched two seasons at Johnson County Community College. But his sophomore year, his shoulder began bothering him.
Fortunately, Matt had a good friend on the team who suggested he see Jason Yoder, DPT, Sports Physical Therapy Manager, Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Mercy.
“My best buddy recommended I go see Jason because of his expertise working with baseball players,” Matt said. “I did, and he helped me work through my shoulder issues and get back on the field.”
Though Matt was now in his early 20s, he had no reservations about returning to Jason when he injured his lower back while diving for first base during his second season with the Mets.
“I worked with Jason the whole off season,” Matt said. “He helped me rehabilitate my back and hip.”
Not long after Matt returned to the mound, he was sidelined once again—this time by an olecranon fracture that required a screw be inserted in his elbow. The Mets medical team also performed an ulnar nerve transposition on his pitching arm at the same time.
“I requested to be sent home so I could work with Jason,” Matt said. “I knew he could help me. I trust him and I always feel like he understands what my body is capable of.”
Jason also teamed up with the Mets organization during Matt’s rehabilitation. “It’s been good to collaborate with the Mets medical staff to help Matt get back to the game he loves,” Jason said.
“Recovering from the elbow surgery and ulnar nerve transfer was a slow process,” Jason added. “It was critical that Matt spend the time rehabilitating his throwing arm if he was going to continue to play.”
After a comprehensive rehabilitation program with Jason, Matt started his 2017 season in peak physical condition.
“Honestly, this is the best my body has ever felt. I feel like everything is starting to come together, in large part thanks to the work I have done with Jason,” Matt said.
And the statistics show it. Through the end of August, Matt had struck out 80 batters in 55 2/3 innings with a 1.46 ERA. He’s becoming known for his fastball, and is looking forward to staying healthy and working on building his strength in the off season.
“I’ve incorporated many of the therapy techniques Jason has taught me over the years into my daily workout routine,” he said.
At 24, Matt’s determined to advance to the next level through the Mets organization. “I am grateful to Jason and Children’s Mercy for being here for me over the last four years,” Matt said.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be playing today. They’re helping me chase my dream.”
Learn more about the Sports Medicine Center at Children's Mercy.