Last fall, the search history on Luke Anderson’s phone revealed his nervous tunnel vision — Tommy John surgery, Tommy John surgery recovery time, Tommy John surgery risks, Tommy John surgery rehab, etc., etc., etc.
The Snow Canyon senior loved baseball and had a scholarship offer to play at BYU, but like any teenager he feared what his future in the sport would be after doctors confirmed he needed surgery on his right elbow.
Anderson said he Googled information about the injury and surgery more times than he could ever count, but it usually created more anxiety.
“It sucked ’cause I was looking at recovery times,” said Anderson.
He learned it could take up to a year to return to full strength, and sometimes longer depending on the severity of the injury. It put his senior season in doubt, and added to his regret about not seeing doctors right after the 2021 high school baseball season ended.
He’d had a hunch for several years something wasn’t right with his throwing arm, but never wanted to get it checked out for fear of the results. He especially didn’t want to have it looked at after helping lead Snow Canyon to the 2021 state championship. He wanted to head out and continue the momentum in summer tournaments.
By July, he couldn’t grip a baseball with his right hand anymore, and doctors eventually confirmed his fears. He needed Tommy John surgery, and his senior season was in jeopardy.
From what doctors told Anderson, with patience and then being extremely diligent with his rehabilitation, athletes return to full strength if not better 80%-90% of the time.
Anderson committed to be among that majority, and his diligence paid off. He enjoyed a phenomenal senior season for Snow Canyon and has been named the Deseret News Mr. Baseball recipient.
“I didn’t even know if I was going to play my senior season, so I just worked hard to get healthy again and at least hit so I was able to DH this year,” said Anderson. “It felt amazing. It really does show that hard work pays off. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder until this year.”
Anderson had surgery for his full ulnar collateral ligament tear in September, and even though he was cleared to start taking light batting practice in February he wasn’t cleared to hit in live games until the week of Snow Canyon’s opening game on March 11. In his first game he went 0 for 3, but reached base on a walk.
It was probably his worst day at the plate all season, because the other 33 games of his senior season he was sensational and tore the cover off the baseball game after game.
“He has so much bat speed. The ball got to the outfield real quick. There wasn’t much time for an infielder to knock something down, or usually it was going over their head,” said Snow Canyon coach Reed Secrist.
Anderson got a base hit in 28 of 34 games this season and finished in the top five in the state with a .562 batting average. He also drew 36 walks in 34 games and finished with a state-best .676 on-base percentage. He reached base safely in every game and only struck out nine times in 139 plate appearances.
Considering what he went through to put himself in a position to be so successful is a phenomenal accomplishment, something he pinches himself about.
“I’m so proud about battling back and fighting to be able to play. I had to do a lot of rehab,” said Anderson.
Prior to the surgery, Anderson pitched occasionally for Snow Canyon as well and his fastball had been clocked as fast as 94 mph. When the need for surgery was confirmed, he knew his days of high school pitching were over but was committed to getting back to at minimum playing designated hitter.
Past Deseret News Mr. Baseball winners
2021 — Fisher Ingersoll, American Fork
2019 — Brock Watkins, Pleasant Grove
2018 — Tyson Fisher, Dixie
2017 — Seth Corry, Lone Peak
2016 — Payton Henry, Pleasant Grove
2015 — Easton Walker, Pleasant Grove
2014 — Colton Shaver, Jordan
2013 — Riley Ottesen, American Fork
2012 — Dallas Carroll, Taylorsville
2011 — Kayden Porter, Spanish Fork
2010 — Marcus Littlewood, Pine View
2009 — Marcus Littlewood, Pine View
2008 — Joe Pond, Judge Memorial
For roughly 21⁄2 months post-op, Anderson was in a brace with his elbow at about 90 degrees. Around Thanksgiving he was able to start rehabbing by working on his elbow extension and strengthening his shoulder.
In January he was strong enough to start swinging, but at one point dialed things back as he remembered reading about how patience and not rushing rehab was a critical part of the recovery to avoid setbacks.
Anderson said despite surgery his swing feels the same — he watched a lot of video from his junior season to help with that consistency. What did change though was his aggressiveness in the batter’s box. Perhaps it was the result of six to seven months without baseball, or the frustration of sitting in the dugout just waiting for his turn in the lineup to come up again, but he swung early in counts this season and put pressure on pitchers.
The result was a significant jump in just about every offensive category. His batting average went from .411 as a junior to .562 as a senior. His OBP went from .592 to .676, his extra-base hits went from 18 to 27 and his RBIs went from 32 to 47. His walk rate stayed about the same with 37 and 36, respectively, but his strikeouts went from 17 down to nine.
During one four-game tournament that Snow Canyon hosted in March, Anderson went 11 for 11 with 11 RBIs.
Anderson’s natural position is outfield, and though he was never cleared by doctor’s to play in the outfield, he was cleared to play first base in the final 10 games of the season.
In the playoffs he played a key role in leading Snow Canyon into the 4A state championship series as he went 13 for 26, reaching base 11 more times via walks — finishing with a .648 on-base percentage in the playoffs.
Anderson plans to play in the summer baseball league at Salt Lake Community College before enrolling at BYU this fall. Secrist has high expectations about Anderson succeeding early.
“I think he’ll do real well. If they just let him play and do his thing I think he’ll do just fine,” said Secrist.
One thing is for certain, Anderson will work as hard as anybody to be successful. He learned firsthand these past eight months what is possible with hard work.