No matter how many times CJ Felthaus gets knocked down, he keeps coming back for more.
A senior pitcher for the Father Judge High School baseball squad, Felthaus has overcome one injury after another on the diamond. He missed the majority of this season because of a strained deltoid in his left shoulder, but last week he made his return to the hill.
“This is my first time back in a while. It felt really good to play again,” said Felthaus after pitching the seventh inning against Monsignor Bonner on May 12. “I’m fine. I’m a little sore, but my arm feels good … a lot better than it did.”
Felthaus was summoned to the mound during the final outs of last week’s battle against Bonner. Felthaus fanned a batter, allowing one hit but no runs during his brief time in the game.
“That inning was maybe the (only) seventh inning all season he’s thrown, so that injury has really been bothering him a bit,” explained head coach Tim Ginter. “He’s done all the work from the physical therapist and gotten the clearance from the doctors. He’s done everything and he still wants to come back. He’s doing whatever it takes for his teammates. I’m really proud of him. I give him a lot of credit.”
The Crusaders lost last week, 8-6, but not without a fight. They slugged 11 hits in the game, rallying to score five runs in the fifth inning, but it wasn’t enough to defeat Bonner — which, with the win, clinched first place in the Catholic League Red Division.
Father Judge is now 3-7 on the season. The Crusaders were slated to play Cardinal O’Hara on Monday, but the game was postponed because of inclement weather. Judge will play its final two games of the regular season — both against O’Hara — on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Those games were scheduled after the Times went to press this week.)
“I feel like, with this group of guys that we have, we are talented enough to go far,” said Felthaus. “We’re taking it one game at a time, and hopefully we’ll go pretty deep into the playoffs.”
As the Crusaders embark on the home stretch of the season, for Felthaus — one of many seniors on this year’s roster — there’s certainly a sense of nostalgia. A lifelong Northeast Philadelphia resident, Felthaus has contributed to the Crusaders baseball program for four years. He has had quite a few injuries along the way, yet he has always shown his Crusader pride.
“I’m sure it’s been frustrating for him. It’s certainly not what we envisioned for him, and I know it’s not what he envisioned,” said Ginter of Felthaus’ latest injury. “He’s done everything that he can to get on the field, and I give him a ton of credit for that.
“It shows that Judge means that much to him. He’s going to try to fight through and give us whatever he can give us,” Ginter continued.
In addition to overcoming his should injury, Felthaus has dealt with his share of bumps and bruises along the way. On April 15, during the Crusaders’ 8-3 victory over Frankford, Felthaus was knocked unconscious while trying to score on a close play at the plate.
“It was all right,” Felthaus recalled with a laugh. “I was trying to score and got hit in the head. I was out for a couple of days, but I was fine.”
Perhaps his biggest battle, though, has been with hemophilia — a blood disorder characterized by a deficiency of normal blood-clotting factors, thus allowing any minor cut to potentially cause internal or external bleeding.
Diagnosed as a newborn, Felthaus has been taking injection treatments of a medication for most of his life. The intravenous treatment is commonly used by hemophiliacs to prevent severe bleeding episodes.
“I try not to think about it too much. I usually just get a treatment before the game like a normal day,” Felthaus explained. “Then, if I get hurt, I’ll treat it after the game. It’s a bleeding disorder, so basically when I bump myself on something, it’ll bleed internally.”
Despite the risk of serious injuries common with baseball, or any sport for that matter, Felthaus has been competing on the diamond for most of his life — a courageous act that has earned him a prestigious award on the Father Judge baseball field.
Within the Crusaders’ program, the No. 27 jersey represents the 27 Father Judge alumni who sacrificed their lives in Vietnam. In the past, No. 27 has been retired by Father Judge in all sports in honor of the 27 war heroes. However, in recent years, the baseball program decided to award the number to a senior player worthy of wearing it.
This year, that number is on Felthaus’ back. ldquo;In the beginning of the year, he was awarded the No. 27 for his hard work, his dedication,” explained Ginter. “It’s fitting based on what he’s been through this year to try and fight and get as many innings and try to be as productive as he can possibly be for the team.
“Since 2007, it’s been a coaching-staff award,” he continued. “It’s a special number. The kids understand that. He (Felthaus) was really happy and honored to be able to wear it. Everything he’s been through this year, its very fitting that that’s his number.”
When his playing days end at Father Judge, Felthaus will continue his athletic and academic careers at the University of Scranton, where he plans to study — very fittingly — exercise science.
“I’d like to work somewhere in physical therapy or sports medicine,” explained Felthaus, an honor student at Father Judge. “Being around doctors all the time when I was younger and always playing sports, I think it’s a really interesting field to get into.
“You should be able to play if you want to play,” he continued. “I always have a lot of fun playing baseball, being around my friends and playing a sport we all love. Working hard and working together for that win, it’s something special.” ••
Sports editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org