Lucky Horseshoes Pitcher Feels Fortunate after Line Drive Injury

baseball, Lucky Horseshoes, line drive, brain surgery, pitcher

Matt Cruise, 19, has loved playing baseball for as long as he can remember. Fortunately, a devastating line drive to the head will not bench the pitcher indefinitely, thanks to a quick response on the field at Robin Roberts Stadium and “amazing care” at Springfield Memorial Hospital (SMH) immediately afterward.

The Grundy County native plays baseball for Spoon River Community College and didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to play summer ball this season with the Springfield-based Lucky Horseshoes in the Prospect League.

The right-hander was on the mound Thursday, June 8, for his second outing of the season when he was struck in the head by the comebacker. He raised his glove defensively but not quite in time to prevent a frightening injury.

His mom, Melissa, still has nightmares about that pitch, just the second one of the game.

“That has always been my biggest fear as the parent of a pitcher,” she said. “I can still see it when I close my eyes at night. At first I thought he blocked it. It was so scary.”

Once he regained consciousness, Matt remembers everything. He had suffered a skull fracture, and he was not a fan of the uncomfortable neck brace he had to wear to SMH, but he’s grateful it did its job to prevent further injury. He also appreciates what he calls the “phenomenal care” he received – from the Emergency Department team to the doctors and nurses who cared for him in intensive care.

The day after the injury, concern about two brain bleeds led to Matt having brain surgery, which was performed by SIU Medicine neurosurgeon Breck Jones, MD.

“Matt had an epidural hematoma due to a depressed skull fracture,” Dr. Jones said. “These can be life threatening because of the pressure the hemorrhage puts on the brain. We had to elevate the depressed fracture, evacuate the blood that was putting pressure on the brain, and cauterize the artery that had been lacerated by the fracture and ultimately led to the bleeding. The procedure itself only took about an hour, but any kind of cranial surgery by nature is intricate. He has made a fantastic recovery. Being young and fit definitely helped him bounce back from this.”

baseball, Lucky Horseshoes, line drive, brain surgery, pitcher

The Springfield Lucky Horseshoes, a collegiate summer wood bat team, take a moment to pray for their teammate Matt Cruise, who was hit in the head by a line drive.

Today, Matt is home and back in the gym. Cleared for light lifting, he is focused on regaining some of the weight and strength he lost during recovery. He’s down to just one postsurgery medication and is back behind the wheel. His headaches are gone.

“The support from people in Springfield got me to where I’m at now,” said Matt. “My recovery is going great, but there were definitely hard times when I was experiencing pain, and I would look at the comments on social media, and I would feel so much better. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

His mom echoes those thoughts. She is especially grateful for the high quality of care Matt received at Memorial.

“Everyone kept telling us to take him to Memorial,” she said. “I would have never thought he was going to have brain surgery on a Friday night and come home Monday morning. I just thank God every day that he’s OK. We also appreciate the support from everyone – the whole town, the Shoes organization, everyone who reached out, everyone who kept people informed. The prayers and the support were unbelievable.”

As for Matt, he continues to cheer on his Shoes teammates from home and work on getting stronger. He says to look for him on the mound for Spoon River next spring, playing the game he loves.

baseball, Lucky Horseshoes, line drive, brain surgery, pitcher