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Meier Overcomes Difficulty to Succeed with Mallards

While almost every great athlete has experienced a few bumps in the road on their way to success, very few have had to face this adversity early in their athletic careers. So while he?s already achieved so much on the field of athletic competition, local product and 2004 Madison Edgewood High School graduate Craig Meier knows to be thankful for every moment given to him between the lines.

It was just three years ago that Meier was gearing up for his senior season at Edgewood High where he competed as a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball. In the past, Meier had experienced success in all three arenas but football and baseball proved most rewarding and he had high expectations to compete in one of the two sports after high school. All was going well for the young star until just minutes into the Crusaders first football game of the season, everything took an uninvited turn.

?I did it two minutes into our first game of my senior year. It was a pretty big blow for me,? said Meier.

That big blow was actually three big blows. Meier, the teams starting quarterback, had torn not only his ACL and MCL, but also a meniscus in his knee.

?I did it on defense oddly enough. I was coming up to make a tackle and my foot got stuck in the ground and my knee twisted. I heard a pop and knew it wasn?t good.?

The injury would sideline Meier for nearly four months. Suddenly, all that seemed so within the young man?s grasp seemed to take a step back. He who once had college coaches ecstatic over his athletic potential was now greeted with skepticism. Could he make a full recovery? Would this be a recurring injury? All were questions coaches had to ask themselves and even Meier himself would have to consider. With a torn ACL alone, many people take a full year to recover.

Meier battled though ? mentally that is. With the love and support of friends and family, he even says he became a stronger person.

?Everyone that was my age during that time, around 18, we all feel like we?re invincible and [the injury] kind of brought me back to reality about how important every practice is and just being in the moment.?

But it wasn?t just his friends and family who lent Meier their support. He actually received advice on how to cope with the anguish of not playing from a man who knew exactly what he was going through.

?Lee Evans [former University of Wisconsin and current Buffalo Bills wide receiver] came in and talked to me for about two hours because he had done the same thing. He told me that he wrote a diary every day about what his mental state was and he said it helped him out a lot. I actually started doing that.?

So with diary in hand, and Evans? words in the back of his head, Meier spent the next four months doing all he could to prepare himself for a return to athletic competition ? rehab and workout.

His return would finally come in the spring of 2004 in his other favorite sport of baseball. With no physical ailments to hold him back now, Meier opened practice with the team and stepped onto an athletic field for the first time in almost six months. He did so with no mental roadblocks either.

?I had done so much rehab at that point that I felt confident [in my knee]. The biggest thing was that I was just excited to practice again. My coach wouldn?t let me steal though. I didn?t steal a single base the whole season.?

Even without the stolen bases, however, Meier looked as if he?d never missed a beat, garnering a series of accolades for his play during the season. He was named All-Conference for the second year in a row as well as Utility Man All-State and Madison City Player of the Year. He received each award with the new lease on his athletic life that the injury had provided.

?Looking back, it really did help me. It was a big learning experience. I would never like to do it again but it made me a stronger person and more of a man.?

After graduating from Edgewood in the spring, Meier was able to make his dream of college athletics come true. Perhaps surprising to some, he elected to take his arm back to the sport that had originally caused him so much difficulty and pain. Only this time, it would be on a much more demanding stage. Meier accepted an offer to attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall as a preferred walk-on to the football program. He would compete there as a quarterback.

The 2004 season was solid for the UW football squad as Meier, a redshirt freshman, watched the team claw its way to a 9-3 record. On the practice field, he continued to be successful earning the Badgers? Scout Team Player of the Year accolades. Still, something was absent from his life.

?Whatever sport I wasn?t playing I was missing and baseball really stuck out to me. I love playing baseball and I really missed it.?

Those sentiments are what led Meier to make a phone call to MATC Head Coach Mike Davenport at the end of his first year at UW. Just days later, he would be working out in front of the coach and was offered a spot on MATC?s team for the 2005-2006 school year. Meier was officially making the move back to baseball.

In his first season with the Wolfpack, Meier posted a 4-4 record with 46 strikeouts and just 16 walks, catching the eye of MATC assistant and Mallards Field Manager C.J. Thieleke. And although Meier wasn?t on the Mallards opening day roster, it wouldn?t take long for Thieleke to give him a call.

?The funny thing was that two days prior to that I started for my other summer team and I had pitched like 130 some pitches,? said Meier. ?I got a call asking would I be willing to start tomorrow. I?ll never turn down an opportunity like that.?

Meier didn?t disappoint either, delivering five innings and allowing just two runs on three hits. Meier?s terrific spot start placed the Ducks in position to defeat the Wisconsin Woodchucks 7-5 that night, June 7, and give the Mallards there fourth win of the season.

?I pretty much lived on adrenaline that entire day and it was just a great experience being in front of so many people and having a great time.?

Not bad for a kid who just two years earlier was unsure of what his athletic future held. Still, Meier knows now not to take anything for granted, admitting that he?s having the time of his life pitching for the fans at the Duck Pond.

?This has been one of my biggest dreams ever since I?ve started playing baseball. To come here and play with the Mallards during the summer and it?s worked out great. I?ve had a ton of support ? family and friends?everyone?s always here at the game.?

And so goes Meier?s career as a Mallard and as a baseball player. Will there be more difficulty? Undoubtedly so. But with the support of his friends and family, Meier now knows he can meet it all head-on and the Madison Mallards know they have a pitcher who has faced adversity in the past and conquered it.