By Hector Longo
---- — Two years, two surgeries, a half-dozen comeback tries in either of two sports and one dose of reality.
After such a promising freshman season in which he started for the shorthanded basketball team and came out of the Andover High bullpen regularly in the spring, Reid Bryant’s high school career took a turn that you wish on no student-athlete.
Like the 7-6 win he closed out for the Golden Warriors over Lawrence early last week, Bryant hopes to slam the door shut on those two brutal years and salvage the next 14 months.
Behind it all has been some medicine, a little magic and a whole lot of pain — watts and watts of it.
Bryant’s unexpectedly rapid rise this spring is the product of “ARP” — an electroshock therapy that is used to stimulate the muscles around his knee and help them rejuvenate.
Hooking up to an electric current is as tough as it sounds.
“On the pain scale (one to 10), it’s definitely a nine, like the most painful thing I’ve ever been through,” Bryant said.
His father, Dan Bryant, thought his son might have been exaggerating initially. But not since he began similar therapy on his ailing foot.
“I laughed at him,” his father said. “I’m not laughing now. I’m telling you, it hurts ... a lot.”
The younger Bryant, who tore his meniscus and the patellar tendon in his knee in August 2012, is hoping all that is finally behind him.
“It feels good, better and better. Coach has done a nice job of limiting my pitches and I’ve been able to go longer and longer,” he said.
Bryant has progressed to the point that he was ready last week to make his first start.
The left-hander showed nothing but guts in locking down his first save of the year with two innings of two-hit relief last Tuesday, April 22, against the Lancers. He came in with the bases loaded in the sixth and escaped by allowing just one of the three inherited runners to score.
Bryant came back for the seventh and allowed the Lancers a run to make it 7-6, before inducing a soft ground-out to second for the final out, stranding the potential tying and winning runs at second and third.
A win over his father’s alma mater never felt so good.
“There’s been a lot of setbacks, a lot of one step forward, two back,” Bryant said. “That’s been the toughest part, to be so close and then see it not happen.”
After all the frustration, just getting here seems like a success, but Bryant is flourishing.
For the spring, Bryant had pitched 6.2 innings out of the pen as of the middle of last week, with a win and a save. The run allowed against the Lancers was his first, giving him an ERA of 1.05 with five strikeouts and a walk.
With the pain, there has been plenty of gain. Bryant feels stronger. And he’s pitching well for a Warrior team that just might be the class of the MVC. There’s even reasonable talk that he’ll be back on the hardwood for an Andover basketball team that went to the North finals this March and will return its three best players.
One guy rooting hard for him is basketball coach David Fazio.
“He started for me as a freshman and has just been through so much,” Fazio said. “Here’s a kid who’s never missed a practice, never missed anything for us. Even though he was out, he helped with video, helped plan practice. He was all-in for us. And now he’s doing everything in his power to salvage his high school athletic career, even seeing the ‘witch doctor.’”
Bryant backers tread carefully as they root for the likable junior. Nothing for Bryant has been easy so far.
But a healthy Bryant added to this roster makes Andover High a dangerous bunch. And that should be a shock to nobody.