“My story is just like anyone else’s; everyone just loves the game and you just want to play it as long as you can … that’s where I’m at. I just want to keep playing.”
Those were the words of Matt Whitehouse. However, his story is not like everyone else’s. Whitehouse has faced a number of obstacles over the course of his collegiate career. As a freshman, Whitehouse threw just six innings in relief. Whitehouse was ranked 43rd in the nation with an ERA of 2.12 as a sophomore.
Tendonitis in his left rotator cuff led to a medical redshirt in his third year at UCI. The injury actually stemmed from Whitehouse tweaking his knee during weightlifting. He tried to throw through the pain, participating in multiple throwing programs but ultimately had to shut himself down.
“It was so drawn out because it would be feeling better then it would get worse,” Whitehouse said. “It was such a tough thing to get through mentally because I had never been through something like that before.”
Then there was the mental aspect of this injury: being able to still feel like a part of the team even though he could not contribute on the field. Whitehouse embraced his new role with grace, doing everything he could to keep his team cohesive and to keep their spirits up despite the rocky record.
As a senior, Whitehouse had a fresh start. It all began with his first outing at USC, a two-hit game in 4.2 innings, an opportunity that “got the ball rolling.” He pitched 93 innings with an ERA of 3.29 and a 5-6 record as the Saturday starter this year.
“Matt has been a great success story; a student-athlete who has set a high standard both in the classroom and on the field,” Manager Mike Gillespie said. “He’s had to deal with a variety of setbacks as a result of injuries, overcome them all and returned to be among the Big West Conference’s best pitchers.”
As a starting pitcher, Whitehouse uses the week to mentally and physically prepare himself. He lets his body recover for a few days, only to start the cycle all over again.
Since the injury, Whitehouse has made time to see the trainers more often, get stretched out, and do strengthening exercises for his shoulder.
“As your career lengthens here, you start figuring out that they have all these amenities here and all these people here to help you,” Whitehouse said. “This year, I wanted to be in there all the time, because I wanted to make sure I didn’t get hurt again. I think it is something that needs to be more emphasized in the beginning for incoming freshmen.”
With this season over, Whitehouse is looking forward to hanging out at his home in Diamond Bar. He is foregoing his senior season to graduate next week.
“As of right now, I have the opportunity to be drafted and play professional baseball. If not, I think I may want to be a firefighter,” Whitehouse said.
Although Whitehouse’s time as an Anteater is over, he still has the ’Eaters’ future in mind. He believes that it takes not just one leader, but a whole team “pulling from the same side of the rope” in order for a team to be successful. He believes that teammates should hold each other accountable for their actions regardless of their age. This sense of teamwork that Whitehouse believes in is perhaps what has left an impact on his fellow teammates.
“I learned what it takes to compete at the collegiate level from [Matt], as well as how to properly carry yourself around as an individual,” freshman Jonathan Herkins said. “His desire to constantly go out of his way to make sure I was comfortable on the team truly made me look up to him and think of him as a brother figure.”