Leg broken, but not her spirit
With a slide into third base, Brooklyn Nelson's six-year softball career came to an abrupt halt. But that did nothing to quell her positive attitude. In a doubleheader against MACCRAY last week in Raymond, the senior pitcher/second baseman, was attempting to steal third base in the bottom of the seventh inning with her team trailing 4-1 in a Camden Conference game. As she tucked her left leg under while beginning her slide, the cleats of her left shoe caught in the dirt.
"My left foot was caught at an angle and I came down on it," she explained. The injury left her with a fractured fibula just above the ankle, as well as torn ligaments. Nelson will miss the remainder of the season, but she is keeping her head up and not dwelling on the negative.
"It was unfortunate how it worked out," Nelson said.
"But you can't feel sorry for yourself. Life is bigger than sports." Nelson, who plans to attend the University of Minnesota, Moorhead in the fall for Elementary Education and Special Education, was able to attend prom on Saturday night with her date Jared Josephson.
"It went well," she said.
"(Jared) was such a trooper and very good at helping me out all day. I also had two little boys in suits helping through the Grand March; a lot of helpers to make it a special day for me."
As Lizzy Gillingham pushed her around in a wheelchair at prom, Nelson carried a sign on her lap that read "Minneota Mayhem", in reference to the Allstate Insurance commercial in which the bruised and battered man calls himself "mayhem".
In sticking to the theme, Josephson wore a fake bandage on his head. Nelson admitted that she had to take it easy on Sunday, though. "There was quite a bit of swelling," she said.
"I'm sorta in bed rest today (Sunday), you could say." Nelson had posted a 4-2 record in the pitching circle and was averaging nearly a strikeout per inning this season for the Vikings. She was also a stalwart at the plate, batting a robust .364 this season with three doubles, while only striking out twice in 36 plate appearance.
"Brooklyn has always given 100 percent to this team and led us in a positive way," said Coach Heidi Boerboom. "The success that this team has felt has been determined by her efforts on and off the field. She is an inspiration to all of us."
The injury occurred after Nelson hit a hard single past the MACCRAY shortstop and advanced to second on a single by Katie Konold. With Abby Rangaard at the plate, Nelson decided to steal third. "I would have been safe," she said. "But I pulled my foot back in pain and I was tagged out.”
"I thought it was a broken ankle because as I screamed in pain, they moved my leg from behind me to lay it flat and I looked down and watched the inside part of my ankle go back in; which I later found out was my torn ligament or the bone of my leg."
Nelson was driven the 13 miles to the emergency room at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar by her parents, Jesse and Julie Nelson. "We waited for a long time in there because it was extremely busy," Nelson noted.
"I was still thinking I had a broken ankle but as we waited in the ER, the pain started to fade without any meds. So my parents and I thought it might just be sprained."
After having X-rays taken, it was determined Nelson had a broken left fibula and torn ligaments. "It is the same leg that I tore my ACL last year during volleyball," said Nelson, who missed her junior season but was able to play with a knee brace for her senior year.
"I was finally able to ditch my knee brace for softball this season."
Nelson had surgery Monday in Willmar to insert a plate and screws into her ankle, while also readjusting the bone and reattaching the ligaments.
She was able to return home the same day. MACCRAY held on for the win in that first game (Minneota-Canby won the second game 13-8), but the Vikings lost more than just a game. "Brooklyn's grace in times of despair are admirable and a lesson to all of us," said Boerboom. "She has no idea how much the team and I will miss her."
Nelson accepts her role now as a cheerleader for her teammates, as well as a positive role model.
"As a captain, I feel like my co-captains and I have done well leading our team," Nelson said. "Now as I help along the side, I hope to cheer and help with anything I can.”
"Allowing our team to be positive and confident as we play is huge in the game of the softball. I believe in all of our girls and hope to help them finish this season stronger than ever.”
"We are like a family. We're all behind each other and we pick each other up through the errors of softball and life. I couldn't thank them enough."