“That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher
No phrase could more aptly describe the pain and adversity that Charleston Southern senior pitcher Tyler Weekley has endured over the last five years.
Weekley, a James Island High graduate, has rehabilitated not once, but twice from major elbow injuries, missing two complete baseball seasons during his career at CSU. Now, in his sixth season with the team, Weekley is set for one final run as the Friday night starter for head coach Adam Ward’s Buccaneers.
The 6-3, 185-pound right-hander followed his older brother Austin to CSU and logged 39 innings with three wins as a freshman in 2014. That was just the beginning of his baseball odyssey.
“It’s been crazy, like a roller coaster with so many ups and downs,” said Weekley, who will turn 24 in May and is affectionately known as “gramps” to his teammates. “I never imagined any of this when I came to college. I just wanted to pitch and get a degree. I’ve been able to do both but it sure ended up being a much different route than most people take.”
At the end of his freshman year, Weekley experienced pain in his elbow, which eventually led to Tommy John surgery. The prognosis was good, as is the case with most pitchers who have the procedure.
“A lot of guys have (Tommy John surgery) these days so I wasn’t worried too much about being able to come back stronger and better than I was before,” he said.
Indeed, Weekley went through rehab in the fall of 2014 but was not quite ready to return for the 2015 season. He took a redshirt season and the year off allowed him to properly regain his strength and prepare mentally to return to competition.
During the preseason leading up to the 2016, a week before opening day, Weekley suffered another injury, this time essentially breaking his elbow. That injury required surgery and two screws placed in his elbow.
“The ligament was good but basically I put too much stress on the elbow and it blew up,” Weekley said. “It was very tough for me mentally. That injury was much harder to deal with and took a much bigger toll on me. I started to wonder if I would ever pitch again.”
But Weekley did pitch again. With more than 1,000 days off between starts, Weekley was back on the mound for the 2017 season. He recalls his first action of that season.
“I walked the bases loaded and then walked a run in,” he said with a laugh. “Definitely not the comeback I had hoped for but I figured it couldn’t get any worse.”
Things improved somewhat as he finished the season with a 3-4 record and a 5.48 earned run average. He felt good enough after the season to play summer ball in Alaska, which he says benefitted him greatly.
“That was a turning point for me in terms of regaining my competitive edge,” he said. “When I came back originally I never really had the feel or the command. Some days I felt good and other days I felt terrible. The summer gave me 30 or so more innings and I really got some good feeling back towards the game.”
Weekley was much improved last season, logging 76⅔ innings in 14 starts. His record was 4-7 but his ERA dropped to 3.87.
Ward was Weekley’s pitching coach before he was promoted to head job in 2017. Ward says Weekley’s commitment to returning should be an inspiration to all athletes.
“It’s an incredible story, the way he kept persevering and refused to give up,” Ward said. “He’s a tough kid. A lot of guys would have given up and no one could have blamed him if he did. He’s had a long road but he was great last year and I expect he will be great for us again this year.”
During his rehab stints, Weekley aggressively began to learn and study about injuries and how to prevent them. He went through major mechanical changes and has reshaped himself as a pitcher.
He admits at times he thought about giving up the game, but said he felt he had to continue to work for his family and his teammates.
“I felt like I would be doing a disservice to everyone who had ever coached me and supported me and I just didn’t want to be that guy that gave up,” he said. “I just couldn’t quit and walk away when I felt I had something left.”
Weekley will likely not have an opportunity to pitch professionally. However, he will leave the school with a master’s degree in computer science and, he says, with no regrets.
“I told my coaches I am going to give it everything I’ve got this year, not holding anything back,” Weekley said. “If this is it for me, I don’t want any regrets. I want to go as hard as I can go for as long as I can go in every game. Wherever I end up, I will be satisfied that I did all I could do for myself and for this program.”
CSU opens the season on Friday against LaSalle with Weekley expected to be the starting pitcher.
2018 RECORD: 19-35 (10-17 Big South)
COACH: Adam Ward 41-64 in 2 seasons at CSU
TOP PLAYERS: RHP Tyler Weekley (4-7, 3.87 ERA); LHP Cody Maw (3-2, 3.52 ERA); IF Jason Miller (.268, 2 HR, 13 RBI); OF Josh Litchfield (.273, 2 HR, 14 RBI); RHP Will Hartsell (3-1, 2 saves, 4.69 ERA)
TOP NEWCOMERS: RHP RJ Petit (6-9, 265, Rock Hill); IF Max Ryerson (6-2, 205, Conway)
15 – LaSalle, 6 p.m; 16 – LaSalle, 4 p.m.; 17 – LaSalle, 1 p.m.; 20 – at College of Charleston, 6 p.m.; 22 – Georgia State, 6 p.m.; 23 – Georgia State, 4 p.m.; 24 – Georgia State, 1 p.m.; 26 – Kent State, 6 p.m.; 27 – Wofford (Lexington, SC), 6 p.m.
1 – Notre Dame (Shipyard Park), Noon; 1 – Ball State (Shipyard Park), 4 p.m.; 2 – Notre Dame, 4 p.m.; 3 – Ball State, 4 p.m.; 5 – at North Carolina, 3 p.m.; 8 – at The Citadel, 6:30 p.m.; 9 – The Citadel, 6 p.m.; 10 – at The Citadel, 1 p.m.; 13 – College of Charleston, 6 p.m.; 15 – at Winthrop, 6 p.m.; 16 – at Winthrop, 3 p.m.; 17 – at Winthrop, 2 p.m.; 19 –at Savannah State, 5 p.m.; Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.; 22 – Radford, 6 p.m.; 23 – Radford, 4 p.m.; 24 – Radford, 1 p.m.; 26 – Savannah State, 6 p.m.; 27 – at College of Charleston, 6 p.m.; 29 – at High Point, 6 p.m.; 30 – at High Point, 6 p.m.; 31 – at High Point, 1 p.m.
2 – at USC Upstate, 6 p.m.; 3 – The Citadel, 6 p.m.; 5 – at Longwood, 5 p.m.; 6 – at Longwood, 3 p.m.; 7 – at Longwood, 1 p.m.; 9 – at Clemson, 6 p.m.; 12 – Gardner-Webb, 6 p.m.; 13 – Gardner-Webb, 4 p.m.; 14 – Gardner-Webb, 1 p.m.; 16 – at Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.; 18 – at UNC Asheville, 6 p.m.; 19 – at UNC Asheville, 6 p.m.; 20 – at UNC Asheville, 1 p.m.; 23 – vs. South Carolina (North Augusta), 6:30 p.m.
3 – at Campbell, 6 p.m.; 4 – at Campbell, 3 p.m.; 5 – at Campbell, 2 p.m.; 7 – College of Charleston, 6 p.m.; 10 – USC Upstate, 6 p.m.; 11 – USC Upstate, 4 p.m.; 12 – USC Upstate, 1 p.m.; 14 – at Charlotte, 5 p.m.; 16 – Presbyterian, 6 p.m.; 17 – Presbyterian, 6 p.m.; 18 – Presbyterian, 2 p.m.; 21-25, Big South Tournament*
* - Fayetteville, N.C.