Schoolcraft High School sophomore Blake Bales planned on it being “business as usual” as he joined the boy’s varsity golf and baseball teams this spring—until he broke his right thumb on the last day of spring recess.
Bales broke the thumb (he is right handed) slam dunking a basketball at the recently opened Sky Zone trampoline park on Portage Rd. in Kalamazoo. He was spending his last day of spring break with fellow varsity basketball player Riley Piper. They were having one last “hurrah” at the trampoline park. The two had just returned from Indianapolis from the NCAA playoffs with Piper’s stepfather, Ryan Ludlow, and a visit to Sky Zone was the perfect ending. Then the two decided they had had so much fun on Tuesday, they would go back again on Wednesday. “I played all day on Tuesday and didn’t get hurt at all,” noted Bales. The break happened late Friday afternoon followed by a trip to the Bronson Vicksburg Out Patient Clinic for an x-ray. After reviewing the x-rays, Blake’s pediatrician recommended seeing a hand specialist to follow up on the x-rays.
As an athlete, Bales’s talents lie in using his body, but as a high school sophomore his talents lie in using his brain, said his mother Cheri. Bales has played two fall sports (basketball and bowling) and two spring sports (baseball and golf) since 9th grade. During the 2015 basketball season, the 6’4″ (almost) sophomore was called up to the varsity basketball team after four games and regularly played point guard alongside Schoolcraft standouts Jason Feddema, Alec Craig and Cody Tone. Currently, Bales carries a high GPA, takes advanced classes, and is in the dual enrollment program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. This year, he was inducted into the National Honor Society. He spends his summers working for his family’s golf course, Sauganash Golf Club in Three Rivers.
As if missing two high school sports isn’t bad enough, Bales plays travel baseball for Complete Baseball out of Comstock and isn’t certain what kind of shape he’ll be in when the cast comes off. “I hope I’ll be ready to start practice (when the high school season is over) when I get the cast off,” bemoaned Bales. The cast is scheduled to be removed May 20, the very same day the varsity baseball season comes to an end. And then, May 21 is the golf team’s KVA tournament and the last day of regular play.
Being out for the season is not coming easily to Bales but he’s taking it well. He actually played first base in one varsity baseball game before getting the cast put on his right thumb and forearm the next day. “It doesn’t hurt,” he said on the day of the baseball game, “and the emergency room doctor told me I could do anything I could tolerate.”
He was optimistic after that game but a visit to a hand specialist the next day spoke otherwise. “When I went to see the hand doctor, she took X-rays and showed me how the fracture was already starting to move out of alignment. That’s when they suggested the cast.”
While Bales is disappointed that he won’t be a part of the spring sports teams, he remains optimistic. “I’ll just use our regular practice times to work out in the weight room or do some laps around the school,” he predicted.
So for now, Bales cheers on his teams from the sidelines and says he is “learning his lesson” about how important a healthy body is to an athlete. “If I just tape up these two fingers,” he said, showing his left hand, “maybe I could still play golf?” Shortly after this story was written, Blake hit the links at Sauganash Golf Club, cast and all, and shot a 41 on the front nine. “Mom, I want to play golf again,” he said. Mom said “yes” and Blake is back on the Schoolcraft High School Eagles golf team for the rest of the season.