There's an adage that says people value things they have to work hard for the most.
Bellaire senior-to-be Spencer Badia certainly buys into that when it comes to playing sports, especially after the road back he's been on the past seven or so months.
The date Nov. 3 will be one that Badia doesn't forget.
SPENCER BADIA makes a play in the field during the Beast of the East Baseball Tournament Friday afternoon for Cadiz Legion Post 34. Badia is coming off major knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. He was cleared to play June 5, which was six months to the day of his operation. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
It was that night, in suburban Cleveland, the Big Reds made their return to the Ohio playoffs for the first time since 2007 against Cuyahoga Heights.
Coming off an 8-2 regular season and a cherished victory against arch-rival Martins Ferry a week prior, the Big Reds brought a vaunted aerial attack with Badia at the controls into the Division V tournament.
However, the Big Reds' offensive game plan had a monkey wrench thrown in when Badia went down with a left knee injury after scrambling. At first glance, the injury looked bad, but Badia talked the training staff and coaches into letting him return to the game.
"I was pretty tore up about it, obviously," Badia said. "I just wanted to be on the field trying to anything I could to help my teammates."
The Big Reds, however, were eliminated that night and the process to get better basically began immediately for Badia. Initially, doctors didn't think Badia has suffered as significant of an injury as he had.
"There was no belief that I had torn my ACL because of how well I had been doing before getting the MRI," Badia said.
However, the MRI showed that Badia, had in fact, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and would require surgery.
"I prepared myself for the worst," Badia said. "By preparing myself for the worst, it made it that much easier coming out of it."
Obviously, wanting to get back into playing shape as quickly as possible, didn't wait around in getting his surgery scheduled. He went under the knife on Dec. 5 in Pittsburgh with Dr. Patrick DeMeo performing the procedure.
The rehabilitation process began almost immediately. After two weeks of therapy at home, Badia began seeing Justin Kiger in Elm Grove.
"He was a great guy who really helped me get back up and on my feet," Badia said. "I definitely need to thank him."
The hardest part for Badia wasn't the surgery or the rehab. It was keeping himself from trying to rush back before he was ready.
"Around three months (after the surgery), I felt great," Badia said. "It felt like I should have been able to do whatever I wanted to do. But, even though you feel great, it's still not right, so I realized there's no sense in trying to push it. I feel that realizing that really helped me in the long run."
The desire to rush back is understandable because, along with football, Badia is also a key contributor for the Big Reds' baseball team.
Though unable to play, Badia was the ultimate team player - as much as he could be - during the spring.
After serving as the Big Reds' every day shortstop and as key member of the rotation in their OVAC 3A title season of 2012, Badia was relegated to a fan for this past season.
"It was tough to sit there and watch, but I definitely wanted the best for those guys," Badia said. "It was everything I could do to sit there and watch, but I felt I owed it to my teammates to be there for them."
Along with not missing a game, Badia didn't miss a practice last spring, which tells you something about his character.
"I wanted to give the guys my support and I understood the hardwork they were putting in," Badia said.
It didn't probably help Badia's mindset that he was able to begin jogging and running nearly two months after the surgery.
Badia's self-discipline and willingness to put the time in, allowed him to only visit his therapist 12 times. Kiger would supply Badia with the exercises, who then did the work on his own.
"I really have to thank my family, my coaches and my teammates for pushing me and pushing me to get back," Badia said. "I can't thank them enough."
Badia was cleared six months to the day from his operation. He was released to resume all normal athletic activities on June 5 and actually played American Legion baseball for Cadiz Post 34 that night.
"The day I got released, I came (to Cadiz), strapped the cleats on and played," Badia said. "Watching all those baseball games (in the spring) was driving me nuts, so to get to finally play was a huge relief."
Along with currently playing baseball, Badia and his Big Reds' football teammates are working toward Saturday, Aug. 31 opener against Steubenville Catholic Central.
"I can't get enough of (football)," Badia said. "Whether it was spring workouts, summer workouts, camp days, I don't even know how to describe how excited I am to get out there."
Though he's been playing baseball, running, working out and doing things to prepare for the season, Badia is still human. He admitted that there'd be some nerves about the first time he scrambles, gets tackled low or makes a cut at full game speed.
"I'd by lying if I said it wouldn't be in my head," Badia said. "But, after that first play, I won't have second thought about it."
Badia passed for 2,736 and 24 touchdowns last season. All told, he accounted for 3,049 yards of offense. For his career, Badia has thrown for more than 5,000 yards, meaning he's got a chance to enter some seriously rarified air in Ohio Valley history.
Badia could honestly care less about individual stats, honors and accolades. For him, the bottom line is winning.
"When we get in the weightroom, it's just a different atmosphere," Badia said. "Everyone has the same goals and mindset, so we get in the workout room and it's unbelievable how much the (culture) has changed."
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