Underwood supportive of team after comebacker strips ace of his sight
On April 3 in Miami, Okla., things changed for Seminole State (Okla.) College pitcher Jordan Underwood.
The Trojans’ ace, Underwood was 4-0 and was on the mound as Seminole was going for its fifth straight win.
It didn’t take long for baseball to become less important.
Early in the first inning, a Northeastern Oklahoma A&M hitter launched Underwood’s pitch right back toward the mound.
What came next remains very vivid for every Seminole player.
The line drive struck Underwood in the left side of his face, an injury that caused him to lose vision in his left eye.
“I saw the ball come off bat and the noise that it made, you thought it hit a glove,” Seminole pitcher Jordan Clark said. “My first thought was ‘no that didn’t just happen.’ ”
But it did.
Underwood was rushed to the Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City to examine his injured eye. Underwood said the doctors informed him the ball had destroyed his retina.
“The retina just got completely torn out,” Underwood said. “For a couple of weeks, the doctors said there was a lot of blood and swelling and they thought I might have a chance to get my sight back.
But after I had surgery, they said I have no sight and it didn’t really hit me for a couple of days that I would be blind.”
As Underwood was readjusting to life with one eye, his team was struggling after the loss of its ace pitcher. The Trojans lost four of their next five games after Underwood’s injury — something he wasn’t happy about.
“The thing that got me was when he was in the hospital, I called him and the first thing he said was did we win,” Clark said. “He wasn’t worried about his face, he was worried about if we won, I called him the next day and we had played again and he heard we lost, and he was not happy.”
Seminole coach Jeff Shafer said the team was shaken after Underwood was injured, and brought in some professional help to talk to the team.
“We didn’t play very well so we brought a counselor in,” Shafer said. “The thing about this group is there is a very tight knit, like a family.”
Seminole is honoring Underwood by writing the number 10 on their caps as well as buying wristbands that said “Undy #10.”
“The type of kid he is, he saw the stuff and said it ain’t about me,” Shafer said. “He’s not worried about himself at all.”
Clark said Underwood’s reaction to the wristbands was less than favorable.
“We were playing Connors (State College) and Jordan is standing next to me in the dugout, he grab my wrist and looks at it and said ‘you gotta be kidding me,’ ” Clark said. “He said ‘I didn’t die.’
And I was like ‘we just wanted to do something for you.’ He was like ‘that is so stupid, I didn’t die, take those off.’ That is just Jordan Underwood at his best.”
Underwood at his best is on a baseball field. The 20-year-old isn’t giving up hope to pitch again.
He said he is taking the next couple of weeks to decide if he wants to give it a try.
Shafer said the interest is still there for the left-handed pitcher who had a 3.96 ERA before his injury.
“There were a couple of schools that were recruiting him and they called and asked if Jordan was still interested because they have some money available,” Shafer said. “Whatever he’s going to do, he is going to be successful. He is a great student and has a very solid character.”