Every time Carson Magill squats down, his left knee sounds like someone is stepping on a pile of dried out twigs.
It’s even louder when he rises.
That stomach-churning noise is the reason the King’s Christian junior can’t play catcher anymore. However, he wouldn’t undo the gruesome collision that caused it.
“It’s insane, it really is,” Magill said. “It’s crazy, but if I could choose that moment to either be hurt or not be hurt, go through that process (again), I would definitely choose to be hurt.”
Because even though the 17-year-old suffered a distal femur fracture, a dislocated kneecap, and was told by doctors he might not walk properly again, the result of that moment has changed his life for the better.
“He’s focused in every area now,” his father Bryon said. “He’s more serious about his faith, more serious about his eating, more serious about school, more serious about the sport. It changed him. ”
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It changed his place in baseball too.
Magill decided after the injury that if he was able to return to the diamond, the only logical position for him to play was pitcher. It would cause the least amount of stress on his damaged leg.
Magill hadn’t thrown more than a couple youth innings in his life, but his elevated work ethic helped him pick it up quickly. In a matter of months, before even his head coach or his parents knew he was throwing, Magill was turning heads.
He once was a catcher with only a slim chance of playing Division-I baseball. Now, he has multiple DI coaches interested in watching him pitch.
“(The injury) made him become one of the toughest kids I’ve seen,” head coach John Scanzano said. “To overcome what he overcame, he pitches with no fear, and that’s rare in pitchers today. It does not matter if he strikes someone out or they hit a home run, his demeanor does not change on the mound. It stays the same. He’s got a pit-bull mentality. One Division-I head coach watched him pitch a game one time and his words were, that kid has moxie. ”
Incredible, considering Scanzano and others had doubts he’d be able to return to the game two years ago.
‘No way, no way, this did not happen’
The Knights were in Hanover, Virginia, for the squad’s annual spring training trip in March 2020.
Magill, then a freshman, was King’s Christian’s catcher of the future, but on that squad, he had a pair of veterans in front of him in Mike Binnachio and Masami Yamauchi.
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Scanzano wanted Magill in the lineup though, so he tried him out in left field next to current Lafayette outfielder Kaleb Willis.
“I remember telling Caleb before the game, I said hey, you have a freshman next to you in left field, so help him out out there,” Scanzano recalled. “If a ball is hit and you can cover it, get it.”
The first inning ended without any action, and Magill wound up being left on deck in the bottom of the frame.
He spent the top of the second anxiously awaiting the third out so he could get his shot to hit. King’s Christian recorded two easy outs, then the third batter popped one up towards Magill.
“He had the ball, but Caleb, like a truck, was coming from the center,” Scanzano said. “The amount of ground Kaleb covered was ridiculous, but he had his head down and was running. (Magill) said I got it, but Kaleb never heard him, and (Magill) never waved his arm or anything like that.
“Kaleb was running, running, running, Magill camped under the ball… the last second (Magill) kind of took a step back to catch the ball and Kaleb dove at the same time, and he just hit the back of his leg. (Magill) went down, and from where we were, the way he hit him, you saw him go down and you’re like, dang, that probably hurt. “
Scanzano went to check on Magill, who said he could not move his left leg.
“I was sitting on the ground like no way, no way, this did not happen,” Magill said.
However, he was not feeling much pain. He was helped off the field and put some ice on his knee. He could not feel his ankle, which led the trainer to believe he’d torn his ACL.
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Had they known what really happened, they would have left him on the outfield grass and called for an ambulance.
Instead, they loaded Magill into the family’s car and was driven to a local hospital. The ride was not pleasant as every turn and bump caused Magill agony.
Doctors also assumed Magill tore his ACL, but X-rays revealed otherwise.
“I broke (my femur) right next to the (femoral) artery,” Magill said. “If the bone scratched the artery, that would’ve been terrible. It made it super urgent. ”
He was transferred to a hospital at Virginia Commonwealth University and was to have surgery as soon as possible. His knee had swelled so much, it looked like his kneecap was still intact when it was actually at the back of his leg.
Magill wound up having two surgeries and doctors gave him a wide range of possible outcomes, from not walking normally due to growth-plate issues to healing but not being able to play baseball to being fully healthy in 18 months.
“I was kind of mad about it, but I’m not really an emotional person like that,” Magill said of doctors telling him baseball might not be in his future. “I did not really react. It was just kind of in my head, I was telling myself there’s no way. There’s no way that was going to happen. “
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He was right. He was playing baseball three months later, though only coach Bill Stonis and a few teammates knew it.
A new path
Magill received a lot of support when he returned home.
Phillies farmhand Jeff Singer (Holy Cross graduate) got a baseball signed by a bunch of teammates for him. Twins hurler Devin Smeltzer (Bishop Eustace) sent him a get-well video. Mike Scanzano, one of his travel coaches and John’s brother, talked with him every week. His teammates were by his side too.
There were struggles though. He could not shower for three months. The only way he could get clean was by sitting in a bath tub with garbage bags over his leg as his mom dumped buckets of water on him.
“I stunk,” he said.
Magill had a hard time sleeping as well. He’d move from the couch to his bed trying to find a position where his leg wouldn’t hurt.
He passed the time reading magazines his teammates brought him. One day he was flipping through them and saw a picture of someone pitching, and the idea clicked in his brain. He’d give the mound a go.
Magill was going to King’s Christian practices while he was hurt, and that June he talked to Stonis about pitching.
They started slow. Magill, who wore a bulky brace, developed his mechanics. That turned into bullpen sessions.
In August, John Scanzano’s club, Scanzano / Combat Baseball, was holding a college showcase in Pennsauken.
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“Bill tells me I’m going to let Carson pitch today, and I go who?” Scanzano said. “… He threw really well and I was like, you got to be kidding me right now. … He got up there and I think he might’ve stuck out the side. He blew dudes away. He was throwing 82, 83.… He pounded the zone, threw off-speed pitches and he mowed them down. ”
Magill still was not medically cleared, although he claimed he was.
“He was doing more than we knew about,” said Bryon Magill, who understood his son’s overzealousness. “I tore three ligaments in the elbow my junior year of high school. They told me nine months, but I was kind of hard-headed like him. I was coming back. He came back faster than I did. ”
It’s because of a Carson drive never exhibited before.
Magill worked hard before the injury. He did extra from time to time, but he did not go all out.
“When I do something after the injury, I do it to the best of my ability,” he said. “(Physical therapy) tells me to bike a mile, I bike two miles. I watched David Goggin the Navy SEAL, his thing was who’s going to carry the boat. Someone does 15 reps, I’m going to do 16.… That’s just the kind of mindset I was going through. ”
He wound up playing soccer that fall, then threw 45 1/3 innings, top five in South Jersey, last spring. He went 5-3 with a 3.55 ERA and 61 strikeouts while pitching the Knights’ biggest games. That was with less than a year of experience.
He recently passed the second anniversary of the injury and he’s up to 88 miles an hour on the radar gun.
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He was told he may never run out onto the baseball field again. Now, it’s a question of how far he’ll go.
“He’s a DI pitcher, no doubt about it,” Scanzano said. … He’s a winner. If you were to ask me, and this goes for pretty much any team I coach, if I had to win one game and I needed to give someone the ball, there might kids that throw harder, might be kids that are stronger, but no one is going to compete like him. I’m going to give him the ball 10 out of 10 times to win that one game. There’s no doubt in my mind. “
Josh Friedman has produced award-winning South Jersey sports coverage for the Courier Post, The Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times for more than a decade. If you have or know of an interesting story to tell, reach out on Twitter at @ JFriedman57 or via email at email@example.com. You can also contact him at 856-486-2431. Help support local journalism with a subscription.