Sometimes an athlete can rationalize a redshirt season and at least pretend to make the best of the idle time.
Wichita State baseball player Ryan Hege won't bother to put a happy face on last spring. He hated sitting out after shoulder surgery. It grated on his nerves every minute.
"It was more stressful than playing," he said. "I don't like sitting. I've never sat in my life. I felt like I let my team down a little bit, but it was something I couldn't control."
Hege, a catcher from Maize, underwent surgery to repair a slight tear in his rotator cuff and labrum in his right shoulder. Doctors also discovered a benign cyst during the surgery in December 2009. That forced him to sit out the 2010 season.
So he did a lot of watching. He tried to encourage teammates. He talked to other players about rehabbing and staying positive during an injury.
"I'd have to catch bullpens, and I couldn't throw," he said. "I would underhand balls, and that got annoying."
This spring, Hege is one of the happiest Shockers. His shoulder feels good and he is excited to play. Catcher is his primary spot. He is preparing to play first or right field. His bat could make him a player coaches need somewhere in the lineup.
"First day of practice, I felt like I was a new kid again, playing baseball for the first time," he said. "It was awesome."
Hege played last summer in two good programs. He started with the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters, playing mostly as the designated hitter. Then he moved to the Kenai Peninsula (Alaska) Oilers, joining WSU shortstop Tyler Grimes, to get more time behind the plate. He hit .357 in 16 games with a home run and a double.
He played in 2009 at Cowley College, where he hit .353 with four home runs and 13 doubles, earning honorable mention All-Jayhawk Conference honors.
Versatility may be the key for Hege to get in the lineup. Junior Chris O'Brien will start at catcher. First baseman Johnny Coy returns, as does DH Preston Springer and they are proven hitters. Right field is an option, but it's not a position Hege has played often. If he hits, coaches will find a place for him.
"I'm pretty much a utility guy, which doesn't hurt at all," he said. "Hitting is definitely my strong point, I just love it. I just feel real comfortable in the box."
Uncertain future — WSU basketball player Jerome Hamilton's indefinite suspension is not likely to end soon. His spot on the roster is tenuous.
Hamilton is not practicing or traveling with the team. He has been suspended since mid-January.
Coach Gregg Marshall said Hamilton's issues are numerous, including academic problems and basketball issues.
"He's got to make some better decisions," Marshall said. "There's a couple of things he's got to do, which I won't get into, and he's got to get his academics up. If he's not making good decisions, and he's not healthy, what does he need to be around here for?"
Marshall said Hamilton's status may not be resolved until the end of the semester.
"I gave him a list of things he has to do, and I haven't seen him or heard from him," Marshall said. "When I think indefinite, I think long term."
Hamilton, a redshirt freshman from Warwick, Ga., played in four games this season. He last played on Dec. 13 against Alabama A&M. Injuries kept him from practicing most of the season.