When Calexico native Esau “Chacho” Madrigal was 5 years old he broke his right arm during baseball season, forcing him to sit and watch his friends play. That didn’t sit well with the boy who absolutely loved the sport of baseball.
With his love for the game and determination, and some help from a coach in Enrique Lechuga, Madrigal learned how to throw with his left hand and soon found himself back on the field playing the game he loved.
It was that determination that helped him get through a much bigger obstacle at the peak of his young career.
At the end of Madrigal’s senior year at Calexico High, he was in his baseball prime. He helped lead his Bulldog team to back-to-back Imperial Valley League titles and a couple of CIF-San Diego Section Division I postseason wins with his dominating presence on the mound and at the plate.
Instead of heading to a four-year university Madrigal decided to play at Imperial Valley College.
“After high school I wanted to go to IVC and try to improve my game there while getting my classes in order to transfer after my sophomore year” the now 20-year-old Madrigal said. “I got a lot of experience in my freshman year where I got to face some tougher hitters. In high school teams would have two or three good hitters but in college everyone can hit.”
After his freshman year, Madrigal was named to the All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference team as a utility player as he hit for .340 while going 3-6 overall as a pitcher.
In the offseason leading up to his sophomore season Madrigal began noticing more and more pain in his left shoulder and decided to visit a doctor.
After a couple visits and an MRI the doctor broke the news that Madrigal had a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff, needing surgery.
“It was hard to hear,” Madrigal said. “The hardest part was reading about the surgery and seeing that the comeback was going to be hard.
“I had a lot of doubts. If I did come back I didn’t want to be worse than before. … I was scared that I wasn’t going to be the same.”
Madrigal successfully underwent surgery and then began the long road to recovery.
He went through a nine-month physical therapy regiment, then a four-month throwing program for a total of 13 months of recovery.
“It was hell,” Madrigal said. “I had a lot of negative thoughts. It didn’t feel the same, but I started to get more comfortable and just let go and it felt good.
After a year and a month out of the game and another season on the horizon, Madrigal was determined to play.
“I was definitely not going to miss another season, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to have some restrictions with pitch counts or what not.” He said.
As the Arabs took the field in their first game of the 2012 season Madrigal was right there with them and now, halfway through the season, he is thriving at the sport he loves.
“My shoulder feels great now. It’s probably twice as good as it was before with no pain.” Madrigal said. “And it’s gratifying to be playing on this team where we are competing in conference. My first year here people would take us as a joke, but now they come to play and respect us.”
Now that he is back on track and performing better than ever, Madrigal has some NCAA Division I baseball opportunities, opportunities that almost weren’t.
“This whole thing has taught me to not take the game for granted. I used to go through the motions a lot but after the surgery have a new appreciation for hard work,” Madrigal said. “IVC baseball isn’t what people make it out to be; it’s a stepping stone to develop your skills and move on to a higher level and thanks to them I’m going to have that opportunity.”
It was a long road for Madrigal and now that he’s back to what he loves he can’t forget the people who helped him along the way.
“I just want to thank my physical therapist, who is actually my oldest brother, and all of my coaches, family and friends” Madrigal said. “Because without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”
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