The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The Fish is back: Hugh Fisher’s return from Tommy John surgery

The senior pitcher is back from a nearly two-year absence to lead the bullpen.
Hugh Fisher pitches against Georgia State on Feb. 28, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Truman McDaniel)

“I knew right away,” senior pitcher Hugh Fisher said.

Fisher was pitching in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the premier collegiate summer baseball league, in 2019. He had some numbness in his fingers and elbow tightness during Vanderbilt’s final regular season series against Kentucky in May, but he shrugged it off. 

“I thought it was just maybe my nerves,” Fisher said.

He went on to pitch three innings in the SEC Tournament and one inning over two appearances in the NCAA postseason.

But while pitching for the Chatham Anglers over the summer, he tore his UCL and immediately recognized the cause of the numbness and tightness he had been feeling. Fisher underwent Tommy John surgery to repair the ligament in August 2019.

His road to recovery began the day after his surgery with targeted mobility exercises for his shoulder. Throughout the fall season, Fisher took a leadership role mentoring Vanderbilt’s young pitchers.

“I remember last year having a conversation with him, and he said ‘Okay, well I’m going to insert myself as an older player on the team and help other people,’” head coach Tim Corbin said. “And that’s exactly what he did.”

Fisher helped out pitching coach Scott Brown in the bullpen and coached freshmen on their adjustment to Vanderbilt and the importance of focusing on the team early on in their Vanderbilt careers.

“As a freshman, I was really focused on myself and how much I would play,” Fisher said. “I didn’t really put a lot into working with others or trying to be a leader on the team. When I got injured, I would help out some of the younger guys working through drills and give them tips and tricks and work through how baseball is here.”

“He was very influential with a lot of those kids last year,” Corbin said. “So much so that even after we went to Arizona, we felt like he was going to travel with us the rest of the year just because of his influence on other people. That’s heavy stuff. That’s good stuff for a kid who’s growing outside of himself.”

He had worked his way through most of his rehab by the time the team was sent home for COVID in March 2020. Over the summer, Fisher stayed on track with his throwing program by pitching with University of Memphis players in his hometown.

The mental challenge of his rehab was more challenging than the physical rehab from surgery, he says. Fisher worried about if he was going to get hurt again.

Fisher finally felt he was back in early August while throwing a bullpen session.

“I was at 93, 95 [miles per hour],” Fisher said. “After that bullpen, I remember texting my parents right away, and I was like ‘I feel like my old self again.’”

Fisher credits fishing for helping him stay patient during his long recovery from Tommy John surgery. 

“The rehab process is anywhere from 12 to 24 months, so you have to be patient,” Fisher said. “I would say fishing has helped in that aspect. You have to be patient. You might go out there and not catch any fish, and you’d be out there for eight hours.”

He started fishing when he was five or six years old and goes fishing about twice a month during the offseason. His passion earned him the nickname “Fish.”

“It’s very cliché, but everyone says that a day on the water is better than a day in the office,” Fisher said. “I think that’s true. Being outside and enjoying the time that you’re there is really beneficial to your mental health.”

In his first game in a Vanderbilt uniform in nearly two years, Fisher pitched the seventh inning against Western Kentucky on Feb. 24.

He struck out the first two batters he faced on three pitches each.

“I had some butterflies right out of the gate, but once I threw the first pitch, I felt like I was back again,” he said.

“It was awesome,” third baseman Jayson Gonzalez said of Fisher’s dominant return to the mound. “He’s put in a lot of work day in and day out. To see him doing it in a game and throwing hard and throwing strikes was exciting for all of us, and I’m sure it was for him.”

Fisher has pitched well through the first two weeks of Vanderbilt’s season. He pitched two innings across two appearances and has not allowed a baserunner.

His impact off the field has grown this season as well. As one of three seniors on the team, Fisher has taken on the role of mentoring younger players.

Corbin likened Fisher to an older brother for the team.

“He’s such a giving kid,” Corbin said. “If you bring each one of our players in individually, especially the younger kids, and ask ‘Who are the older kids that reach out and spend a lot of time with you?,’ his name comes out routinely.”

Fisher’s impact on the team can’t be understated, and Vanderbilt is lucky to have “Fish” back this year.

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About the Contributor
Betsy Goodfriend, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Betsy Goodfriend ('21) was the Deputy Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Human and Organizational Development with a minor in Business. In her free time, she enjoys online shopping, creating to-do lists and watching football even if she has no interest in either team playing. She can be reached at [email protected].    
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