By Quinton Bagley
Little River News
Growing up, Austin Cross’ pitching idol was former Arkansas Razorback and MLB pitcher Cliff Lee. Like Lee, Cross is a left-handed pitcher with a dominating fastball and an arsenal of other pitches to keep opposing batters off balance.
Following an outstanding career at Ashdown High School, Cross signed a national letter of intent to play collegiate baseball at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.
In his freshman year for the Reddies, Cross went 2-3 with a 4.57 ERA. It was in the offseason of 2017 that Cross started feeling some pain in his throwing arm.
“I was shut down from throwing in June 2017 from shoulder and elbow pain,” Cross said. “Then I had labrum surgery in November of that same year. I had injured my shoulder from wear and tear over the years, and finally my shoulder just had enough.”
What is the labrum you ask?
“The labrum is a piece of fibrocartilage attached to the rim of the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place,” Cross said. “I had a labral tear in my shoulder.”
With surgery so start close to the start of the 2018 season, Cross knew he would miss the season. What he didn’t anticipate was how much he would miss the game.
“At first I really didn’t understand how much I would miss the game of baseball and getting to play with my teammates,” Cross said. “The closer the surgery got the more I realized how much of a process this would be. The surgery part wasn’t the tough part; the rehab process is what was so tough on me.”
Following surgery, Cross, the son of Bro. Jim Cross, pastor at Ashdown Methodist Church and his wife, Tami, had to go through rehab to rebuild his arm strength and get back where he was before the injury. It was a tough journey but one that his faith, family and friends got him through.
“My faith, family, and friends are what got me through the rehab process,” Cross said. “It seemed like every time things would get looking up for me, something would happen that would slow me down. My parents stayed on me about staying positive and trusting in God’s plan, no matter how tough the process got. Dad would always say “this is just part of your testimony.” It also helped that they never doubted me and my return. I doubted if I would ever be able to throw a baseball again, but my parents never showed any doubt. They always stayed positive and showed love, and that’s ultimately why I am back where I am today.”
Cross said that rehab was the hardest thing he had ever done.
“I had to work harder than I ever have in my baseball career,” Cross said. “I had to make changes with my body and really get in the weight room like I never have before. Thank you to my teammates and our training staff for pushing me day in and day out to become a better athlete.”
With all the well wishes form friends and family to get him though his rehab, Cross said a big part of his return to the mound was his faith.
“First and foremost, all the glory goes to God,” Cross said. “Without Him, I wouldn’t be doing any of this. My story is just a story of a little hard work and a lot of God. Never doubt God’s plan, sometimes you have to see the valley to enjoy the mountain top.”
While it was tiring a tedious, the hard work did pay off.
“I threw in my first game exactly 15 months after surgery,” Cross said.
Cross said he still approaches every batter the way he always has.
“I still pitch the same as before the surgery,” Cross said. “I love attacking hitters and throwing multiple pitches for a strike. I still don’t strikeout many hitters, I rely on my teammates to make plays behind me.”
Although he wishes that he had never had the injury, surgery or had to go through the rehab, Cross said the year away from the game was beneficial.
“I feel as I am more effective and stronger than ever on the mound,” Cross said. “Sitting out for a year, I learned so much about the game of baseball and I feel like I really matured. I feel like I am a more complete pitcher now. I hope to keep getting better and better every outing on the mound.”