'It was gone so fast:' How a freak eye injury and pandemic shut down a promising baseball career
When the OHSAA officially cancelled the spring sports season, Mariemont baseball senior Peter Mysogland turned to films of his football season last fall.
There was an initial state of denial as he looked at games from Mariemont's 7-3 season in 2019. Eventually, though, the realization set in: his baseball career was finished.
"My mom came down to check on me and I started sobbing," he said. "It was gone so fast."
The tears were not just because of the cancellation of spring sports. They extended back to the past two springs and the long road to recovery for Mysogland after having his world rocked and career path altered before the 2019 season.
Going into the 2017 season, Mariemont head baseball coach Joe Regruth noticed a need at second base.
Insert Mysogland, a freshman at the time who showed the versatility to play solid defense throughout the infield and could even hop on the mound and throw strikes, if needed.
"We could've put other people there, but Pete was just better than those other options," Regruth said. "He was a natural inclusion as a freshman on the varsity."
Regruth also noted that Mysogland's smooth left-handed swing would eventually have power.
As a freshman, Mysogland hit .188, but bumped that up to .310 as a sophomore in 2018 with nine RBI and his first career home run in a wild 16-14 victory over Clermont Northeastern.
"He was just about to hit his stride offensively," Regruth said. "We were thrilled with his progression and what his future looked like."
Mysogland would get invitations to college showcases and camps throughout the country on a seemingly daily basis as playing college baseball became a very real possibility.
"I'm convinced he had the talent to play at the next level," Regruth said.
During spring baseball tryouts in 2019, coaches noticed Mysogland flinching while receiving throws from the catcher at second base. He wasn't seeing the ball until the last possible second. One day later during the ACT, Mysogland knew there was a serious issue.
"I was basically taking the test with one eye," Mysogland said. "I remember sending a text to my dad saying, 'something's wrong. I literally can't see.'"
Mysogland and his father visited LensCrafters in Kenwood, where he was immediately referred to the Cincinnati Eye Institute.
"The doctor there was basically petrified of the pictures that she saw," Mysogland remembers.
Further scans revealed a large growth attached to the retina of Mysogland's left eye. Percentages were very high that he would lose all vision in the eye, even if surgery was performed because the growth was attached.
Mysogland had past surgeries on his wisdom teeth and an emergency procedure on a ruptured appendix, but when he heard about how the doctor was going to cut his eye open, he was spooked. He got through it with his faith and a great supporting cast around him.
"I have a great group of friends who are all followers of Christ, as am I, and they just helped me get through it by praying for me and sending me parts of the word to read," he said. "If it wasn't for them, or my faith, I don't think I would've gotten surgery; I would've been too scared."
Regruth got permission to tell the team about Mysogland's injury. The club met in the locker room and was instantly taken back.
"You could've heard a pen drop," Regruth remembers. "We as a team made sure we were in touch with him throughout the lead up and the post operative portion. We made sure that he was welcome in the dugout whenever he was available. He wanted to be a part of the team and the team
The comeback trail
After being limited to his living room couch for a few weeks after the surgery, Mysogland was permitted to return to school in mid-April 2019.
One month post-op, Mysogland was able to return to the field as long as wore a thick pair of rec-specs. Mysogland was allowed to be a designated hitter, because from his stance in the batter's box, his right eye was in front, facing the pitcher. He wasn't the same player that hit over .300 as an underclassmen, but being on the field again was worth it.
In nine games, Mysogland went 1-for-15 and drew eight walks. He singled in a 4-3 loss to Western Hills on May 10, 2019— the final hit of his high school career.
Usually, one's junior season is a player's time to shine for recruiters. For Mysogland, though, an email account and cell phone that were once buzzing with invites and opportunity both went dry.
"As soon as coaches figured out there was something wrong with my eye, it just slowly stopped. It was a bummer," he said.
One final season
Mysogland played football in the fall without a hitch before using the winter to bulk up for his senior baseball season.
He used a free period at Mariemont to take a daily weight lifting class and would throw outside whenever it warmed up.
Regruth, now in his 11th season at Mariemont, said he doesn't have team captains, but Mysogland resembled one.
"Peter was one of our team leaders," he said. "I always look to the seniors as the oldest and most experienced guys to be our leaders and he really stepped forward in that role."
Mariemont was just days away from traveling to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to play at The Ripken Experience when Regruth had to tell them the trip was not going to happen because spring sports had been temporarily postponed.
"The guys had been working so hard and the leadership from the seniors was amazing," Regruth said. "Looking at all of those guys and telling them, 'guys, this isn't gonna happen this year,' that was really hard."
The spring season was in limbo for over a month before it was ultimately cancelled on April 20 by the OHSAA. For Mysogland, a once promising prep career had taken the worst of turns. At one point, he was showing signs of joining some of the greats Mariemont has produced over the years. Then, he lost his final two seasons to a sudden eye injury and a global pandemic.
Regruth said he's never felt worse for a player.
"It just hurts so bad because you could tell it was driving him crazy to not be out there," Regruth said. "To see him work as hard as he did with rehab and still come back was amazing and super uplifting. I feel terrible about this year."
Less than a month later, it still hurts and probably will for a long time. But Mysogland has come to terms with the situation and wants to make the most of it. The eye has improved immensely as he can read smaller words now and pick up the spin on a baseball when he's hitting in the cage.
There are still changes, though. Like when it comes to what's next.
Mysogland always thought he'd leave Ohio to go to college — preferably somewhere that doesn't have all four seasons in one day, he says. But he recently went to Athens and fell in love with the Ohio University campus. He'll become a Bobcat this fall studying sports management.
"I'm excited about it and I'm happy," he said.