The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

“The Grandpa” is Back and Better than Ever

Caleb Buehrle is Ending His Baseball Career on His Terms
Ryan+Janssen+%28left%29+and+Caleb+Buehrle+%28right%29+are+set+to+be+a+dominant+force+together+this+season.
Ryan Janssen (left) and Caleb Buehrle (right) are set to be a dominant force together this season.

“Every day we get to play this game is a blessing, and I’m blessed my journey didn’t have to end on that day in March. I promise to make this second chance count.” 

This is an excerpt from an Instagram post Caleb Buehrle posted on July 12, 2023, months after his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) snapped off his elbow. 

Caleb Buehrle is a sixth-year graduate student pitcher for Millikin. He is known as “The Grandpa”, but his longevity has been incredible. He has been a huge part of the success of the baseball team, being a consistent presence on the mound year in and year out. However, after his season-ending injury last March, his presence became a huge question mark. 

“At that point I knew my season was done,” Buehrle said. “I had to finish the inning as well, because we were in a situation where there was nobody in the bullpen. As soon as the inning ended, I walked over to the trainer and just thought that my season was over.” 

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This could have very well been the end of Buehrle’s Millikin career, as taking a sixth year is a difficult decision to make, especially after injury. After thinking about what the team meant to him, however, Buehrle knew that he wanted to end his Millikin baseball career his way. 

“I did not think I was coming back,” he said. “This wasn’t my plan, especially because I was in year five already. But I started talking to people who had done six years of college, and I slowly realized that I had unfinished business here.” 

Not only did Buehrle have unfinished business on the mound, but he wanted desperately to have one last healthy season with his teammates and coaches who have supported him on the way, and head coach Brandon Townsend was on the front lines of support during Buehrle’s recovery.  

Townsend was cautiously optimistic when he learned that Buehrle was thinking about returning to the field for one more year. 

“Caleb had been through every emotion,” Townsend said. “There were times, at least from my perspective, when he was coming back. Then there were times when he wasn’t coming back. We went back and forth.” 

Townsend also understood the weight that Buehrle’s decision would hold. Should he risk one more year of baseball after coming back from a nasty injury, or should he simply move on with his life, never knowing what this season could have held for him? 

“I think I tried to take the stance of wanting him to do what is best for him,” Townsend said. “We’re better with Caleb here for sure. But that’s a commitment. This is a huge life choice. So, when he came to this decision, I wasn’t egging him on or urging him to give me an answer. I gave him the space he needed to make his choice.” 

I could see in Buehrle’s eyes that this was true. He was all in on a comeback season. He was all in on whatever this season had in store for him, regardless of the team outcome. 

“This team has goals,” he said. “We talked about how we’re chasing some big accomplishments on the field. You can ask anyone on the team, and they will tell you our goals. As for me, being able to play a full season would make this choice worth it for me. I wanted one more year with these guys so I could go out on my terms. I want to be able to say that I left everything out there.” 

Buehrle’s injury did not only affect himself. It affected his teammates as well. It is always difficult to see a teammate go down, but a significant arm injury is always much more difficult to bounce back from. Ryan Janssen, Buehrle’s catcher, had the opportunity to watch firsthand the progress that Buehrle made. 

“It’s been a fun process watching him get back to where he was before,” Janssen said. “He’s going to come back and even do more than before. He’s already looked good in his bullpens.” 

Janssen was very impressed by Buehrle’s attitude during his recovery. Not only was he trying to come back from injury, but he was also trying to be even better than before. 

“Whenever he first got his return to throw protocol, I was always out with him on the field this summer and fall,” Janssen said. “I would play catch with him, and he would walk me through how he was feeling that day. He was obviously very limited in the amount of throws he could have, but he always asked for my feedback. How’s the ball spinning? How’s that look coming out. He’s such a competitor, and he’s always looking for any advantage.” 

Buehrle’s competitive nature paid off this weekend. He pitched three innings in a scrimmage game against Lincoln Land Community College, 329 days since his injury. 

He recorded three innings pitched, one hit, zero walks, and six strikeouts, with his velocity around 89 mph for most of the day. And he did it on 41 pitches. Not a bad start to a comeback season. 

“When there’s another team in the batter’s box and there’s fans in the stand, you’re on your own field, and you’ve got a walkout song playing, it’s just a whole heightened sense of emotions,” Buehrle said. “It wasn’t nerves that I had in terms of hoping the elbow would hold up, or I hope that I can find the strike zone. It was just me not being able to wait to keep going.” 

Buehrle has a lot to look forward to this season, much more than simply being able to play the game he loves. He was able to find his groove early and often in the scrimmage, pointing towards signs that all the struggles he went through this offseason were worth it. 

“It was so nice being the guy that’s out there on the field after so many months of being the first guy out of the dugout. It’s so nice knowing the guys were 100 percent behind me. I couldn’t have done what I did without them.” 

Scroll down on Caleb’s Instagram post on July 12th. There is a quote that reads, “Today I threw a baseball again for the first time. I’ll never take it for granted again.” 

Caleb Buehrle has come a long way since March 11th. He has a long way to go. With his talents on the mound and his teammates and coaches behind him, there is nothing that “The Grandpa” cannot accomplish. 

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About the Contributor
Kemper Koslofski, Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-Chief: January 2023-Present Sports Editor: March 2023-December 2023

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    Ed LindemanFeb 4, 2024 at 5:27 pm

    So proud of Caleb. His perseverance and dedication is a true life lesson for each of us.

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