Rally Capps: Hockinson pitcher makes comeback from serious car crash

Michael Capps suffered broken neck last fall

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

HOCKINSON -- “Usually,” the officer on site told the Capps family, “when we see an accident like that, there’s a dead body inside.”

Hockinson senior Michael Capps was driving home from a school dance last October when he swerved to avoid a deer and flipped his parents’ Ford Explorer. Looking like it was TKO’d by a freight train, the SUV lay upside down when Capps called his folks from the front seat.

He told them that he was going to climb out, which he did successfully -- then his parents made a 10-minute drive that his father said felt like 10 hours.

Relieved that their son was still alive, Shannon and Therese Capps then helped transport Michael to the hospital.

“Usually,” a neurosurgeon told the Capps family later that night, “X-Rays like these belong to someone in a wheelchair.”

Hockinson falls to Aberdeen

Hockinson’s Michael Capps was a tough-luck loser Tuesday as the Hawks fell 1-0 to Aberdeen in a first-round game in the Class 2A district tournament at Kindsfather Field at Clark College.

Hockinson gave up a first-inning run and would not find an answer. Aberdeen’s run came via wild pitch.

Capps struck out four in another complete effort.

Hockinson will face Tumwater at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Wheeler Field in Centralia. The Hawks must win Wednesday to stay alive, then two more on Saturday to advance to state.

Blake Kjensrud, Jake Manson, Ryan Logan, Torey Dunn and Triton Cole had hits for Hockinson.

For the first hour after the crash, Michael experienced no pain. Adrenaline had muffled all other sensations, and the only thing he could remember feeling was remorse for wrecking his parents’ car.

photoMichael Capps gives a thumbs-up as he rests in his hospital bed following his car crash last fall that left him with a broken neck.

Turns out, however, that Michael had broken his neck -- a fracture directly responsible for the right-arm numbness he would endure for weeks afterward. And considering Michael was a right-handed pitcher awaiting his final high school season, this was the polar opposite of ideal.

photoAn image of the Capps' car after the accident that injured Michael Capps

Particularly upsetting was the fact that the Men’s Senior Baseball League Father-Son championship game was just a month away. For 10 years, Michael and Shannon had been anticipating the event in which child and parent compete alongside one another in Phoenix.

Before heading into the operating room to undergo spinal surgery, Michael asked if he would be ready to play in time for the game. When the doctor told him his recovery would last 6-8 months, Michael’s mood dropped like a sinkerball.

“It’s something that we’d been talking about since I was eight years old.” Michael said. “My dad and I have always had a competition, and I wanted to show him what I could do.”

But after a successful operation, Michael’s spirits picked up -- as did his recovery’s acceleration rate.

For the first couple weeks following the accident, Michael’s means of transportation was a school-provided wheelchair that his friends pushed around. But for Michael, it might as well been rolling throne.

Besides relishing the attention and the fact that he had access to the school elevator, Michael would amuse himself by screaming “oww!” every time he rolled over a bump, even though it never hurt.

A few weeks later, all feeling had returned to his right arm, and within four months, he was throwing again.

The speedy rehab impressed Michael’s surgeon, who confessed the process was ahead of schedule, and by the time the high school baseball season came around, Michael was back on the mound.

“I truly believe that his love and passion for the game is a big reason that he was able to come back,” said Hockinson coach Stephen Short, whose Hawks have qualified for the 2A district playoffs. “Considering his injury and the timing of it, he’s had unbelievable year.”

The year includes an earned run average under 1.5 and a complete game every time he has taken the mound.

Teammate Blake Kjensrud said that Michael is the Hawks’ most dependable pitcher, and that he never seems to rattle on the mound.

Makes sense. This is the same Michael Capps, after all, that has been walking around with a pink backpack for the past year or so with the word “Swag” scrawled on the back.

In fact, with Michael driving again, and with him planning on joining Shannon in next year’s Father-Son game, he doesn’t seem much different mentally or physically from that night a deer jumped out in front of him.

Well, there is one thing.

“I’m OK with hunting now,” Michael said.