Many kids dream of making it in the big leagues. That dream came true for a local boy named Frank Crinella. However, Frank never thought rehabilitation would be a part of that dream.
Frank played hockey and baseball at Cathedral High School in Springfield. A talented athlete, he has been praised by coaches, teachers, teammates, and even opponents. He was even named baseball Player of the Year and received the Bessone award during his senior year.
After high school Frank chose to go to Merrimack College to play baseball and study finance.
Baltimore Orioles Came Calling
On Major League Baseball’s Draft Day in 2015, Frank was at his ‘Nonie’s’ house in Springfield. It was there that he learned that he had been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. “I was on a plane the next day,” said Frank. He was off to Sarasota, FL and the Gulf Coast League where he met great people and had many great experiences. “We played 64 games in 66 days. You had to stay in great shape, physically and mentally.”
At the end of the 66 games, he returned to Merrimack to continue his studies. He dedicated an equal amount of time to training, as he knew staying in top professional athlete shape was important. In March of 2016, Frank headed back to spring training in Florida. His success through spring training propelled him into a starting position with the Aberdeen Ironbirds.
Like I Was on ‘Pause’
That summer, his headaches started. As a self-proclaimed 'big-time Mama's boy', he recalls it was around his mother’s birthday. He would lose feeling in his fingers and had excruciating neck pain. Still, he continued his everyday life – training, playing baseball. Even his pre-game preparation was intense, totaling about six hours.
One day, he was at third base and fielded a ball. He recalls picking it up, and then he just froze. He remembers thinking, “why am I not moving to throw the ball? I just stood there, like I was on ‘pause’.”
Frank had a very bad headache, and was quickly assessed by the team’s medical staff and brought to the hospital. There, he underwent tests for days. At first, doctors thought it could be a brain tumor.
After a few long days, Frank was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a condition in which nerves, arteries, or veins are compressed in the passageway from the lower neck to the armpit. Frank had surgery to remove two ribs, one on each side, to relieve the nerve/artery that was being pinched under his collarbone.
Next he learned that he would need six to seven months of rehabilitation. Frank wanted to stay close to home, and knew Baystate Rehabilitation Care would be able to provide the care he needed.
Treating a Professional Athlete
“It was tough not to play,” said Frank. Frank worked diligently with physical therapist Jim Maloney at Baystate Rehabilitation Care. “Jim is an amazing guy. He knew my baseball schedule and what needed to be done to keep me on track. My overall goal was to get back to baseball and he kept me going.”
Frank's surgeon prescribed specific rehabilitation steps for him after surgery.
“Generally in treating the post-surgical patient, the first step is to control the pain and then initiate range of motion,” said Maloney. Maloney went onto explain that as tissue healing occurs and the range of motion becomes less painful and consistent, they will start progressive resistive exercise. When treating professional or high level athletes, it is important to help them continue with appropriate exercise while not compromising healing. Continued activity provides a positive focus for athletes while healing.
“I needed to keep the rest of my body in good shape and conditioned and I leaned on him a lot,” said Frank. It was during this lengthy rehab process that Frank began to feel some discomfort on his left side. Another surgery followed, along with more rehabilitation.
Hard Work, Determination and Triumph
With lots of hard work and determination, Frank returned to playing baseball with the Delmarva Shorebirds. During his second season with the Shorebirds, Frank suffered a devastating injury. He tore his groin from the pelvic bone and also tore his core. Another surgery was needed.
After surgery, Frank headed back to Baystate Rehab and Jim Maloney. The rehab plan would be a long one. “Frank overcame three surgeries in a short period of time. The rehab was a physical challenge, getting him to return to a professional athlete’s shape. He is so mentally tough and persistent. It was amazing to see him triumph over such adversity,” said Maloney.
While recovering from his latest surgery, Frank also took care of his ill “Nonie,” and received his finance degree from Merrimack College. Frank started thinking, “What is the right move for me? Do I want to play professional sports or do I want to be able to play and do activities with my kids? It was a very tough decision. But I came to the conclusion it was time to hang it up,” said Frank.
Allowed Me to Chase My Dream
Frank now works at a local wealth management firm as a financial advisor, and is the special advisor to baseball operations for the newly formed collegiate team in Westfield called the Starfires. Frank says his favorite thing about working with the Starfires is talking to the players.
“I know I can share a lot of what I’ve gone through, my experiences, and just be there for them.” Frank says he is very thankful for the people he’s met along the way, and truly thankful to Baystate Rehabilitation Care. “Baystate Rehab was very welcoming to me at every level and I actually looked forward to going there. They allowed me to chase my dream.
"I will be able to do more things later in life because of rehabilitation. I’ve developed friendships that will last my entire life.”