Sonora’s Johnson works way back after serious hand injury

By Bill Rozak February 27, 2012 02:18 am
    The backside of Wyatt Johnson’s left hand looks like some kind of map with symbols possibly directing the way to buried treasure.
    But it’s no map, it’s a reminder of how close the Sonora High Wildcat senior baseball player came to losing his hand in a vehicle crash.
     “I was going 15 mph in my truck, I shifted into second gear and I started going off the side of the road, so I over-corrected,” said Johnson. “I had a lifted Toyota and it just rolled right over. When it rolled, my hand flew out the window because they were down and the truck landed on it. My hand was pretty much crushed.”
    An ambulance drove to Johnson to Sonora Regional Medical Center where they immediately arranged for him to be airlifted to Modesto to see a hand specialist.
    “They told me at the hospital I was about 20 minutes away from having my hand amputated,” said Johnson. “There was no circulation and it was blue all over. I was in surgery for six hours.”
    Once out of surgery, there was no guarantee Johnson would be able to swing a bat, catch the ball in his glove or for that matter, play baseball again.
    “Right after the accident, baseball was the furthest thing from my mind,” said Wildcat head coach and Wyatt’s father Scott Johnson. “But he was already thinking about his rehab after surgery and while he was in the hospital. It was real scary there for awhile.”
    The center fielder had to heal for a couple of months before he was able to pick up a bat or ball. Johnson was cleared in November to do a little throwing and swinging and around two months ago, he had another surgery on his pinky and also got eight screws and metal plate inserted into his hand.
    Now Johnson goes to physical therapy two times per week for strengthening his hand in what is supposed to an 18-month rehab.
    During baseball practice on Thursday at Bev Barron Field, there were no visible signs of injury — other than the “map” on his hand — and the returning All-Valley Oak League First Teamer looked smooth in the outfield shagging flies as the Wildcats prepared for their season opener today at Ripon Christian.
    “I’m excited, I can’t wait to get this season started,” said Johnson, who hit .300 a year ago with an on-base percentage of .438. “I haven’t played in a game in six months because of my hand — so I’m real excited to play. I had to pretty much re-learn how to use my hand again. But it feels good now, it was just a little stiff when we first started practice. My grip strength has gone up.”
    “The outpouring of community support was tremendous,” said Coach Johnson. “A lot of the baseball team and parents really supported Wyatt and visited him in the hospital. Without all that support, it would have been a lot more difficult to get through.”