DEARBORN, Mich. — Citing the recent rash of elbow injuries to some of Major League Baseball’s brightest young pitchers, 43-year-old tax assessor and father of two Jim Dinkins announced on Tuesday he is opting for Tommy John surgery for his 5-year-old son, Colin.
“Colin has pieced together a pretty impressive rookie tee-ball campaign this spring, but I don’t want to take any chances that he’ll miss next season,” said the elder Dinkins, who acknowledged his oldest son’s elbow is both structurally sound and pain-free. “So I think it’s only right that we put him on the shelf for the rest of this year, get the surgery now and be in a position to come back at full strength next season when he’s entering Coach Pitch.”
The now-standard surgery, named after the former Major League Baseball player who was the first to undergo the treatment in 1974, is a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. Tommy John surgery has revolutionized professional baseball, which was once quick to write off pitchers with elbow injuries, and has even become commonplace since Dr. Frank Jobe first performed the procedure on Tommy John, then a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. John eventually would win more games post-surgery than he had prior to undergoing the procedure.
The 2014 Major League Baseball season has already witnessed a rash of Tommy John surgeries on some of its most notable stars, including Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Moore, Atlanta Braves starter Kris Medlen and 21-year-old Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year who was leading the league in strikeouts at the time of his injury. Other current players who have undergone the surgery include Washington Nationals star Stephen Strasburg and the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey, last year’s All-Star Game starter for the National League who will miss the entire 2014 season after opting for Tommy John surgery in late 2013.
Though doctors have advised Dinkins against choosing Tommy John surgery for Colin, whose interests include chocolate ice cream, “The Lego® Movie” and dinosaurs, the one-time walk-on utility infielder at the University of Michigan-Dearborn is resolute in his decision to have his son go under the knife.
“I love Colin, believe me,” insists Dinkins. “But there’s been a handful of times this season when he just hasn’t shown the type of commitment it’s going to take to play for UM-D much less make it to the bigs. So Colin’s surgery is as much about implanting a sense of commitment in my son as it is about implanting a harvested patellar tendon from a cadaver into his elbow.”
While many within the medical community question and even vehemently oppose Dinkins’ seemingly unnecessary decision to put a child who has yet to complete kindergarten under the knife simply to improve the youngster’s performance on the baseball diamond, the third-year youth baseball coach is not without his supporters, including Dr. James Andrews, who has performed hundreds of Tommy John surgeries and reigns as arguably the most recognizable name in orthopedic surgery.
“I think what Jim is doing with Colin is both courageous and a true testament to the love a father can have for his son,” Andrews said while surrounded by largely uncounted stacks of money strewn about his Pensacola, Fla., office. “If more fathers out there had the courage of a Jim Dinkins, then I’d have a third yacht and … forgive me, I kind of lost my train of thought there.”
If the world’s most notable orthopedic surgeon is nothing but supportive of Dinkins, reaction to the Michigan native’s announcement that his son would undergo a procedure which includes a recovery period that can last as long as 18 months was decidedly more tepid within the Dinkins household.
“When I got pregnant with Colin, Jim and I decided that he’d decide which sports our boys played and how often they played them, while I’d take care of any decisions involving dance recitals or bake sales if Colin or his brother ended up being a girl,” admitted Dinkins’ wife, Shelly. “But now I think that pact might have been a big mistake. Colin’s frightened to death of this surgery, but my word is my word and this is what Jim thinks is best.”
Dinkins acknowledges being somewhat nervous about the pending operation, though insists such nerves have been calmed after his 3-year-old son Connor’s recently successful elective surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in preparation for the upcoming indoor pee wee soccer season.