Alex Guay makes no bones about it: It killed him to miss Mercer County’s postseason run last year.
Thanks to an injury, the Mercer catcher could only watch while the Titans won their first 12th Region championship and three state tournament games.
A year later, he’ll finally get his chance to play in the state tournament, and his teammates have told him the view from inside the lines will be nothing like what he saw from the stands.
“I’m just looking forward to the experience,” Guay said. “Everybody says the experience is great. Everybody’s like, ‘You’ve got to experience it, you’ve got to make it here. It’s way different from the stands to the field.”
Guay will find out Monday when he and the Titans take the field at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington for a first-round game against No. 3 St. Xavier.
He was there last year as a spectator after a torn labrum forced him to sit out his junior season, and he said it wasn’t easy to watch while his friends and teammates took the ride of their baseball lives.
“At first I was indifferent about it, but as the season went on and I saw them go farther and farther, I was distraught,” he said. “I didn’t know how to feel. It was bad. I wanted to be out there.”
Guay is along for the ride this season, and he’s even helping to drive the Titans. The senior bounced back to become their top hitter, doing his part both at the plate and behind it to help them repeat as regional champions.
“I’m so proud of Alex,” Mercer coach Jeremy Shope said. “I could see him at the state tournament, and I could just tell he missed it. He missed being around it and regretted a few things, I believe, not being around and not getting to travel with us, but he has made the most of his senior season by coming out and working hard.”
Guay said he thinks his decision to sit out last season was the right one, as painful as it was. He said playing before the injury he suffered in the previous football season healed would have put him at risk of even more pain and of missing more time in his senior year.
“The doctor said if I came back there was a 95 percent chance I’d tear my labrum again,” he said. “I didn’t want to injure myself and not be able to play other sports.”
Guay, who played quarterback, linebacker and later safety for the Mercer football team, was injured four games into the 2010 season. He sat out five games, then returned for the Titans’ last two.
Sitting out the following baseball season allowed him to heal in time to play football again last fall, and he was ready to go when it came time to play baseball again this year.
“I just kept my head up and knew I was going to come back the next year strong,” he said.
Even though his injury had healed, however, his body wasn’t quite ready for the rigors of catching.
“At first it was difficult. My arm was weak, my body wasn’t used to catching every day, but as the season went on I got stronger and stronger,” Guay said. “My teammates helped me through it.”
Guay had been the junior varsity catcher as a freshman and sophomore, and Shope said he worked hard to be ready for his chance to catch at the varsity level.
“It started out rough for him, but he kept getting better and better and better and developed into a pretty good catcher for us,” the Mercer coach said.
He has been a pretty good hitter, too. The Titans’ leadoff hitter takes a team-high .369 batting average into the state tournament, and he has nine doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs.
“I’ve been hitting great. It’s just amazing to help my teammates out and watching not only myself grow but my teammates grow,” Guay said.
Shope said Guay doesn’t look like a player who missed an entire season.
“He’s an athlete, and when you mix desire and athleticism, you’re going to get a pretty good ball player,” Shope said.
Guay said he still deals with pain on a regular basis.
“A lot of pain. My entire body’s so sore from going all-out every game,” he said.
He’s willing to put up with it, however, to make the most of his last chance to play high school sports. Guay is heading to Kentucky and its pre-pharmacy program this summer, so he’s enjoying his time on the field while it lasts.
“It’s been a great run my entire life through baseball and football,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable l that I finally made it to state.”