Wallace back with a bang
UH catcher Chris Wallace needs only to look under his baseball cap to find the inspiration to continue playing through a season marred by physical and psychological distress.’
Written in marker on the cap’s bill, the phrase ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ stands as a stark reminder of Wallace’s path to recovery since being struck just below the right eye by a pitch from Texas A&M’s Barret Loux in a 5-3 loss on March 1. All things considered, Wallace has gained newfound strength from an incident that threatened to end his season, if not his career.
The fractured orbital bone, which required facial reconstructive surgery, was supposed to sideline Wallace for eight weeks, but the junior healed quickly enough to return in a month. Wearing a protective face mask that he’ll probably have for the rest of his career, Wallace returned to the lineup in a matchup against Texas-San Antonio on March 31.
Wallace returned with a bang, batting 4-for-5 with two home runs and a career-high six RBIs to lead the Cougars to a 14-7 win. He continued his tear last weekend during the Cougars’ three-game sweep of Texas-Pan American, going 5-for-13 with four runs, a homer and seven RBIs, and was named Conference USA Hitter of the Week on Monday.
Unfortunately for Wallace, he missed 18 games because of the injury and could only watch as UH (13-17) went 7-11 during that stretch. He was frustrated at having to spend so much time away from the action, but the hiatus provided plenty of opportunities for reflection.
Thus, when Wallace came back, he brought along a fresh outlook on life and the game he loves.
‘(My perspective) is totally different now,’ Wallace said. ‘Everybody says not to take the game for granted because it can be taken away from you like that, but it happened. Honestly, I thought the game was taken away from me.
‘Now, I think (this incident) has made me work harder, just knowing that this game can end in an instant. So, I think it’s really helped out a lot, and I hope that it does for the rest of the guys on the team.’
Wallace’s presence was immediately felt at the plate and behind it. Despite having played only 12 games, he’s the Cougars’ leader in home runs with five. He’s batting .370 with a slugging percentage of .826 and 16 RBIs, third-most on the team. Wallace is also the Cougars’ most experienced catcher, and his availability takes some of the pressure off the shoulders of freshmen John Cannon and Joey Cesario.
Wallace’s impact also extends into the dugout, where he’s established himself as one of the team’s leaders.
‘That just shows you the character of the guy,’ left-hander Wes Musick said of Wallace coming back sooner than expected. ‘He doesn’t give up – he has determination. That’s something that we all take respect in.’
‘We love the guy and having him back out here makes the team feel great.’
Given the injury and the loss that he suffered in his last outing against Texas A&M, Wallace and his teammates are hoping to turn the tables in today’s game against the Aggies (20-11), who are ranked No. 21 in Collegiate Baseball’s poll. However, he doesn’t hold any animosity toward the pitcher who took him out. Wallace and Loux have been communicating with each other since the incident.
‘The day after I got hit, I sent him an e-mail, saying, ‘Hey man, I know you didn’t do it on purpose,” Wallace said. ‘It was a tough situation, but ‘hellip; I told him to keep his head up because I know how that can affect a pitcher mentally, (with him) not wanting to throw inside.’
With the incident behind him, Wallace has set his sights on helping the Cougars move back above .500. He’s off to a great start, but doesn’t plan for it to end there.’
‘I told myself that when I come back, I’m not just going to come back and not do anything,’ Wallace said. ‘I’m going to come back to do damage.’