Progress has come too slowly for Luke Johansmeier’s liking the past several months, so simply stepping foot on the baseball diamond qualifies as a hopeful sign.
“Just getting back into it, getting used to everything,” Johansmeier said. “I’ve played baseball every day for a few weeks now, so it’s maybe getting a little better.”
Johansmeier, who will be a junior at St. Charles North in the fall, missed his entire sophomore baseball season after suffering a broken collarbone in a Jan. 31 car accident. The early stages of his comeback are unfolding as Johansmeier competes with the St. Charles Post 342 legion team and with North’s summer team.
One of the younger members of the legion team, the diminutive Johansmeier is seeing time at second base and designated hitter, although his right, throwing arm remains far from full strength.
Post 342 coach Dale Wilderspin acknowledges Johansmeier’s physical limitations – even at second base, he’s unable to play both games of a doubleheader – but Wilderspin still considers Johansmeier an impressive competitor in the mold of his older brother, Jake Johansmeier, who is playing collegiately at Eastern Illinois.
“He’s a battler at the plate,” Wilderspin said. “He very seldom gets overwhelmed at the plate. He’ll put the ball in play, and he’s come up with some big hits when you think he’s going to get overwhelmed.”
Johansmeier’s collarbone broke because of the force of his seat belt’s reaction to the accident. He knows the outcome of the accident could have been much worse, and he needs only to look at his father, Jay, for evidence.
Jay Johansmeier was driving Luke home from an offseason, infield workout when their Honda Civic hit a vehicle that Jay Johansmeier said pulled out in front of them in a Lisle intersection. He was hospitalized for several weeks after the accident and only recently has regained his ability to walk normally, and remains unable to be as active as he would like.
Luke Johansmeier, 16, was released from Edward Hospital the night of the accident but soon realized his much-anticipated high school baseball season – he was a strong candidate to make the varsity team as a sophomore – was in peril. He hoped to at least salvage a slice of his sophomore year but wasn’t cleared to play until just after the North Stars had been eliminated from the postseason.
Grateful as he is to now be able to play ball, additional patience will be required until he feels like his old self.
“My arm, it hurts when I throw,” Johansmeier said. “Because the collarbone is shorter and it pops out whenever I throw. ... It takes a few months for it to get back to what it was.”
Until he’s able to throw the way he’s accustomed, Johansmeier is putting higher expectations on himself to thrive in other areas.
“I’ve got to work on my hitting because my throwing’s not going to be that good, so I’ve got to do [other things] to compensate for it,” Johansmeier said.
Wilderspin is optimistic that Johansmeier will emerge from his recovery back on track as a promising infielder.
“He battles through it,” Wilderspin said. “He’s going to be a good, little player.”