TJ Wheeler's breakout season and his eyes are being pushed off by a fluke accident, but the Oregon State slugger is on the verge

TJ Wheeler's breakout season  and his eyes  are being pushed off by a fluke accident, but the Oregon ...

CORVALLIS was standing behind a protective L-shaped screen at the cross from Goss Stadium when his breakout season took an unimaginable turn.

The baseball team had an off day on March 2, but Wheeler and a couple teammates wanted to have a hit session. So they ventured over to McAlexander Fieldhouse in the evening and took turns picking up hacks in the cages.

As one of Wheeler's teammates swung away, the unimaginable happened. A baseball jumped off a bat, took a strange bounce, and ricocheted behind the screen toward Wheeler's face.

Blood spewed all over the place, he looked around and couldn't see out of his left eye.

It all happened so quickly, said the vice president. I was very concerned about my sight in my left eye. I mean, I'm a hit.

Wheeler was rushed to the hospital where emergency room doctors tied five stitches under his eye, gave him eye drops and handed him a patch to wear. Hyphema and a macular hole in his eye.

Wheeler was ordered to see optometrists and retina specialists and placed on bedrest for 12 days. Twelve. Long. Days.

In an understatement, he said, "It was not ideal."

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a macular hole is a tear or small break in the macula, located in the retina, and is vital to reading, driving, and visualizing fine details. A Hyphema, according to the AAO, is when blood collects inside the front eye between the cornea and the iris. It's usually caused by trauma, has significant discomfort, and is one of the most challenging clinical problems for an ophthalmologist.

Both illnesses distort and hinder vision and, if not treated, can lead to permanent vision problems.

Wheeler's attitude weighed on as the first baseman/designated hitter snarled in his room in Corvallis for nearly two weeks. He had started the season on a tear, putting 12 RBIs, a home run, a double, and seven walks in seven games. But, the following week, his season and his vision remained in jeopardy.

Wheeler was given a protective shield for his eye and spent the first few days of bedrest listening to audiobooks and podcasts in his room. Eventually, he was given the ability to see television. He waited anxiously hoping his ailments would heal on their own and he would be freed from long-term vision issues.

Im still concerned about that, he said Saturday. My left eye is still a little fuzzy. The best way to describe it is that it is like a smear in the middle of my eye, affecting my vision on my left side. Ill have to get surgery on my eye until the day it heals. However, this is not the case for the first time.

Wheeler immediately landed on the Goss Stadium for his midweek win over Grand Canyon. Slowly, he has resumed modest baseball duties.

Wheeler has taken part in "very flexible light workouts," including weight-lifting sessions and mobility exercises, taken a couple cautious swings off a tee and stood in the batter's box during teammates' bullpen sessions. He has been prohibited from doing stringent tasks, but has managed to play a couple games of ping pong with his teammates in the clubhouse.

It's going well, Wheeler said. I like to see the ball every once in a while. When the ball is down to my left, my depth perception is off and I still have a little blind spot. It's getting better and as long as the hole keeps closing, it should be fine.

Wheeler said, thanks to the bedrest, that the Hyphema is gone. And the macular hole is slowly closing. He continues to see a retina specialist every week and, if everything goes well, he might return sooner than later.

Doctors have not given him a timeline, but Wheeler's own internet research has said that it might take between two weeks and two months.

Saturday, someone said his setback was particularly depressing given that he had had a much-needed start to the season. The community college transfer rekindled gratitude and offered hope.

Yeah, yes. But I'll be back, he said, its. But Ill be back.

| | 503-294-5183 | | Subscribe to The Oregonian/OregonLive and for the latest news and top stories

You may also like: