LINCOLN, Maine — What was just another preseason game for the Mattanawcook Academy Lynx marked a baseball rebirth for Cameron Fournier.
On an April 10 preseason trip to Bucksport, no one wanted to play more than Fournier. The senior had not seen game action in nearly three years, after having his left (non-throwing) ring finger severed and his pinky finger and thumb damaged in a table saw accident in a woodworking class on Nov. 19, 2014.
The ring finger was reattached during an eight-hour surgical procedure that evening at Boston Children’s Hospital but subsequent physical therapy proved frustrating, leaving Fournier with both the ring and index fingers without flexibility.
He couldn’t grip a baseball bat or wear a baseball glove, leaving the promising pitcher-shortstop unable to play baseball, his favorite sport, or golf or basketball.
A second surgery last spring finally eased the tension on his two taut fingers, creating the flexibility Fournier needed to go back to the baseball basics.
“It felt pretty awesome to be able to just slip that glove on nice and easy,” said the 18-year-old Fournier. “It felt pretty good to have that feeling again.
“After my second surgery I told myself I was going to play my senior year. It was my last year, so no matter how much pain I go through I was going to play.”
His long-awaited return to the MA baseball program began with a scoreless inning on the mound during that preseason game in Bucksport.
“I was impressed,” said classmate and teammate Jordan Hanscome, a catcher for the Lynx. “Not just with him coming out and facing live batters for the first time, but the way he was pounding the strike zone. Kids couldn’t catch up to him.”
Not only did Fournier not allow a run, but he struck out the side in order with a lively fastball, a biting curve and the unconcealable emotion of someone experiencing a second chance at a passion presumed lost.
“I was looking down trying to avoid everyone else seeing it, but I was smiling ear to ear,” said Fournier of returning to the dugout after that performance. “It was almost silent out there, I couldn’t hear anyone because I was just so happy. I hadn’t been that happy in a long time.”
A sporting life short-circuited
Fournier spent much of his time growing up in this now-former milltown absorbed by baseball, basketball, football and golf.
His father Al is a welding inspector on the Alaska pipeline while his mother Ann is a recently retired hairdresser.
“I loved every sport I played,” he said. “I was always one of the first players there for practice or the games. I’ve just always had a passion for sports, especially baseball.”
By the time he arrived at Mattanawcook Academy as a freshman in the fall of 2013 Fournier was ready to contribute almost immediately, making the golf and baseball teams as well as playing junior varsity basketball.
More was expected from Fournier as a sophomore until it was suddenly taken away just two days before basketball tryouts.
“I was cutting wood, and the wood got caught in between the blade guard and the blade,” Fournier recalled at the time. “It caught the wood and shot it back out. I went to push the wood back in, and my finger hit the blade.”
Fournier was rushed to a local hospital and then taken by helicopter to Boston, and even then he wondered how the incident might affect his ability to play sports.
“I think it hit me as soon as it happened,” he said. “I saw my finger there and thought, ‘That’s my catching hand, what am I going to do? It’s my guide hand for basketball, what am I going to do?’”
The surgery’s aftermath left Fournier with little movement in his reattached ring finger as well as his left index finger. While he could work on his truck and handle firewood with only moderate discomfort, swinging a golf club or baseball bat was less manageable.
“It made me very angry,” said Fournier, who subsequently suffered a broken left index finger that he attributed to his inability to bend it properly. “It limited me a lot. I was a very active guy before and now I couldn’t do much. I couldn’t stand it.
“At first I felt like that [reattached] finger was in the way and I wanted it gone. I couldn’t do anything with it and if I jammed it, it hurt. I felt like it was in the way and if they took it off it would be a lot better for me.”
Doctors came up with another alternative, surgery to relieve the pressure on the tendons in his hand while providing a natural bend to the fingers that wouldn’t be as subject to jamming and would enable Fournier to grip things better.
“Before whenever I’d try to squeeze a golf club or a baseball bat or put on a glove, it would get sore after about five minutes,” he said. “I thought, ‘Something has to be done about this because I can’t deal with that for the rest of my life.’
“That surgery made things a lot better.”
Back to baseball
Being able to use his fingers more effectively eventually drew Fournier back toward sports, although he struggled with the narrowness of his golf-club grips and considered trying out for basketball this past winter before opting not to play.
The urge to try baseball again proved too much to ignore.
“[Athletic administrator] Bill McCarthy and I worked real hard to make sure we got him to play baseball this year,” said Mattanawcook baseball and golf coach Ryan Libby. “I kind of feel like he’s been stripped of his athletic career in high school, so to give him one more opportunity was important to us.
“Without his injury he’s probably one of the most athletic kids in his class.”
That athleticism was evident during that first outing against Bucksport, and Fournier hopes to contribute even more throughout the spring to a veteran MA team that reached the Class C North semifinals last year.
“He locates really well and throws really hard,” said Hanscome, “but it’s not just throwing hard, he can put the ball wherever he wants to. He can hit the inside corner, he can go outside and he’s got command over three pitches: The changeup, curveball and fastball.”
Fournier said he has experienced no difficulties either holding a bat or using his glove, making it likely he will play in the field when he is not pitching.
“It’s a big thing for our team personally having him back and it’s big for him because he’s always loved baseball,” said MA senior Carter Ward. “He played basketball and golf but baseball was always his sport.
“To see him come from back from an injury like that and pitch like he’s been pitching is a testament to how hard he’s worked to get back here, and it makes me proud to be his friend and teammate.”