McNeese pitcher Rhett Deaton retiring from baseball
LAKE CHARLES – When McNeese starting pitcher Rhett Deaton walked off the mound in the fifth inning against Ohio State at the NCAA Nashville Regional back on June 1, the Winnsboro, Texas native knew that it would be the last time he would ever take his spot on the bump again.
Deaton is listed as a junior on the McNeese roster but has used up five years of eligibility while only suiting up just two seasons due to his injuries.
After missing the entire 2018 season because of a scope of the rotator cuff and labrum after the 2017. He returned in 2019 and was hit right away with a different ailment to the same muscle – a torn rotator cuff.
Rewind to the 2017 season, Deaton’s first as a Cowboy following a transfer from Paris Community College.
The right-handed pitcher was quickly inserted into the weekend rotation and posted an 8-3 record with a 3.78 ERA in his 14 starts as he helped guide the Cowboys to the Southland Conference regular season title and a 37-win season.
However, his season would come to a devastating end in the second-to-last game of the regular season when he suffered a shoulder impingement and micro tears in the rotator cuff and labrum.
Because of that, Deaton was unable to pitch in the postseason conference tournament that saw McNeese being eliminated after three games.
That has stuck with him.
“I felt like I let my teammates and coaches down,” said Deaton.
The injury was treated by Dr. Keith Meister, the team doctor for Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers, who used cortisone injections in a first attempt. But when neither worked, he went with another method – PRP (Platelet Plasma Rich), an injection that helps speed new tissue growth, which in turn, promotes faster healing.
In a game consuming of balls and strikes, the PRP treatment was strike two on Deaton. Strike three came when rehab wasn’t the answer either so Deaton turned to a scope to clean out the shoulder that resulted in him missing the entire 2018 season.
After the scope, things appeared to be looking up.
“I felt good coming back,” said Deaton.
Then they got worse at the start of the 2019 slate.
“It was early in the year, in February,” said Deaton when he knew something was wrong. “I visited (team orthopedic surgeon) Dr. Cascio and he said my rotator cuff was torn.
“I felt like I already let the team down once in 2017 and I didn’t want to do that again because I knew this team was really close and special. So I made the decision on my own to go out with a bang.”
Deaton led the Cowboys with 16 starts on the year and posted an 8-4 record with a 3.95 ERA. Included in those starts was a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to get the Cowboys to the finals of their side of the Southland Conference Tournament bracket, and a start against Ohio State in the NCAA Regionals.
He said the pain really began bothering him after the Nicholls game, his third start of the season.
“When it was really hurting, I would do treatments with our athletic trainer Kate Pinkerton,” said Deaton. “I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without her treatment.
“I threw on Fridays or Saturdays and I cut my bullpens down; doing that behind Coach Hill’s back for a while. Kate was working me out instead of our strength coach because she knew how to work around it.
“After pitching, the following two days were very painful and as the year went on, the pain got worse. I asked Kate not to say anything to anyone because I didn’t want Coach Hill to treat me any differently.”
So when did head coach Justin Hill finally find out?
“I was aware of his situation about halfway through the season,” he said. “It was certainly a difficult conversation for him to initiate. I knew he was hurting between starts, but I knew he wanted to finish what he had started. We both knew his baseball career would be over at the end of the season, so I gave him my word that I wouldn’t treat him any differently and that I would manage the game as if he was healthy. So long as he was getting outs and being effective, I would let him roll.”
“He (Hill) trusted me to do what I needed to do to get ready to throw,” said Deaton. “He supported me and I’m really appreciative to him to allow me to keep throwing and not treating me any differently.”
“A great deal of credit needs to go to Kate,” said Hill. “It was a unique situation that required out-of-the-box thinking, and she was incredible. I don’t think Rhett would have been able to pitch like he did and we wouldn’t have had the run we did without Kate.”
Deaton, who also had Tommy John surgery in high school, said the first teammate he told about his decision for this to be his final season, was fellow pitcher Aidan Anderson.
“Me and Aidan were partners. We were bus buddies,” said Deaton. “We had a lot of conversations on our bus trips. Then I told (catcher) Dustin (Duhon) and then my two roommates Mark Johnston and Cayne Ueckert.
“After the season is when I told everybody else. I told them there’s a reason for it and that I’d never walk away from them. Every single one of them was supportive.”
Now back to that last walk off the mound against Ohio State.
It’s no shock that the first thing Deaton thought about when the Buckeyes tied the game after a two-run home run in the fourth inning, then a solo homer in the fifth, would be: “I hope I didn’t mess this thing up for my team.”
That’s Rhett Deaton. It was never about himself but always about those around him.
“I’m okay with this being it,” said Deaton about his pitching career. “The team was special this year. I wanted to help us go as far as we could. There are a lot of guys that put in a lot of work for that (championship). Every year grows from the previous, and that’s a credit to Coach Hill.
“I felt like I owed it to the seniors to continue. That 2017 season always stuck with me.”
“Our championship run never happens without Rhett,” said Hill. “I told him after it was all over in Nashville how much I appreciated him trusting me. He was heroic, and I’m thankful I had a chance to witness a warrior compete and do something he loved one final time.”
Deaton plans to stay in the game and help out with the younger ball players in his hometown of Winnsboro while inquiring about jobs in sales.
Heroic. Warrior. Champion. Teammate. Rhett Deaton.
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