Kaden Dydalewicz overcomes mental health struggles, Tommy John surgery in return to baseball
By: Luke White
The recovery from Tommy John surgery is never an easy one. Many pitchers are unable to return to the game of baseball after the operation, while those that do may never achieve the same level of success they experienced beforehand.
A select few, however, reach new heights in their baseball careers, and there may not be a better example than Kaden Dydalewicz.
A 2019 graduate of Liberty Hill High School (TX), the hard-throwing right-hander committed to TCU and then-head coach Jim Schlossnagle out of high school. However, mental health struggles put Dydalewicz’s plans to play in Fort Worth on hold.
“I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a freshman in high school, and I backed out,” Dydalewicz said. “I had some maturing to do. I didn’t end up going, so I took a couple months off to do some therapy and go to counseling.”
After a hiatus from playing baseball, Dydalewicz returned to the diamond in 2020 with the Round Rock Hairy Men, a summer team in the Texas Collegiate League. Before long, however, he faced another setback.
“I reached out to [then-TCU head coach] Coach [Jim] Schlossnagle and told him I was interested, and he said ‘I want to see you pitch for a summer league team’,” Dydalewicz said. “I was starting on the mound and blew my arm out on the second pitch on a changeup.”
Afterwards, Dydalewicz received the dreaded news that the arm injury would require Tommy John surgery. The operation’s rehabilitation and recovery postponed his playing time once again for two additional years.
“I wanted to give up, and I was down and out for a couple months,” Dydalewicz said. “I was confused why it happened, and I was wondering, ‘Why me?’ So, I had to talk through it and understand that I can’t control the outcome, but I can control how I can react. You can’t really think about tomorrow or the past, you have to live in the moment and think about how to make each moment better.
“Whatever you’re doing in the moment, try to do it to your best potential.”
Dydalewicz’s rehabilitation required a highly structured regimen of arm care and exercises. According to the pitcher, the road to simply being able to grip and throw a baseball wasn’t an easy one.
“I was in a sling for a couple weeks, and then I started doing some hand movement work,” Dydalewicz said. “I ran, I stretched and I did shoulder exercises. It took five or six months just to throw a baseball from five feet. It’s a step-by-step process, and it’s very slow.
“I did a lot of stuff that wasn’t fun, but in the long run, it helped.”
Dydalewicz credits his successful recovery from Tommy John to his hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity. By sticking to a daily routine, he managed to return to baseball this summer for the first time in three years, joining the Dallas Patriots Collegiate Red squad in the Five T0ol Collegiate League.
“I did my arm bands and my arm care every single night, and I followed it to a tee,” Dydalewicz said. “I didn’t take the easy way out and I didn’t half-ass it. As soon as [the doctors] told me what to do, I wrote it down and put it on my mirror. I put my goals on the mirror, and when I got up in the morning, I read it to myself. I just kept doing it everyday, and I never gave up.”
Dydalewicz is already seeing the results of his hard work show, as he tallied six strikeouts across 2.2 innings in his first significant playing time since high school on Tuesday, May 31, in the Five Tool Collegiate League. His fastball reached 94 mph while mixing a changeup and a curveball into his arsenal as well.
First outing since TJ!
— Five Tool Collegiate (@FiveToolCollege) June 1, 2022
Later that evening, Dydalewicz finally achieved a lifelong dream of playing college baseball by committing to Texas A&M. The decision reunites him with Schlossnagle, now head coach of the Aggies, who have earned a No. 5 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a dream come true for me, I’ve always wanted to play SEC baseball,” Dydalewicz said. “It’s cool seeing a time like that win with the grit, toughness and coaching they have. It looks like a fun ball team to play with, it looks like they have good energy and the team is clicking together.”
With Tommy John surgery and his recovery behind him, Dydalewicz is now focused on making a name for himself on the diamond, all while taking the Dallas Patriots and Texas A&M baseball programs to new heights.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was four, so I’m doing everything I can to make it,” Dydalewicz said. “I was born to play baseball.”