Brett Zawacki knew at 23 years old he shouldn’t be in constant pain.
So after talking with his parents during the final month of his season with the Gateway Grizzlies, he made an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“I was looking for some answers because I’ve been in a lot of knee pain and foot pain for about the last two years now,” the former La Salle-Peru Township High School standout said.
He got his answer.
After getting his right knee drained and undergoing a series of tests last Tuesday through Thursday, Zawacki was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, the same type of arthritis that affects golfer Phil Mickelson.
“It’s kind of like a peace of mind thing,” Zawacki said about receiving a diagnosis. “It’s been so long and I’ve been hurting for the last couple years now. It was getting really frustrating. It was tough to stay the course with baseball and everything when I was waking up in the morning just feeling miserable. It hurt to get out of bed.
“It’s a good thing (to have a diagnosis). Am I going to have some things to deal with as far as the arthritis? Yeah, but at the same time, I am glad I did go up there and we got some things figured out.”
Zawacki was prescribed a medicine he’ll have to take once each week for three months.
“They say it works pretty well and works quickly,” said Zawacki, who took the first dose Saturday. “Hopefully, I can get healthy again because it’s been too long.”
Zawacki said the arthritis has affected his training and also caused problems during the course of long baseball seasons.
“It was more just a long-term thing. It kind of took its toll on me,” Zawacki said. “I can’t remember a (specific) time or game where it was really bothering me. It almost turned into more of a mind game because I was waking up every morning with pain. It’s not fun to play when you’re hurt. Over the course of a long period of time it really frustrated me. I just want to be able to go out there and play healthy again and actually give myself a chance to do well.”
To give himself the best chance to succeed, Zawacki met with athletic trainer Steve Korsan on Saturday and plans to regularly attend City Center in Peru to help him strengthen his joints and get into shape.
“I talked to Steve Korsan and was like, ‘You know what Steve, it’s getting to be about that time in my career where it’s do or die, and I really want to give this one more shot,’” Zawacki said. “He agreed with me and he told me the best way to go about things right now is to come in and basically get in the best shape of my life. He told me I want to look back when I’m 45 years old and know I at least gave it my best.
“I think the best thing for me to do right now is go out and work hard with him and (athletic trainer) Gina (Martin) and everybody else over at City Center and just try to get into really good shape and let everything else dictate itself.”
Zawacki spent the last couple months of last season with the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League after getting released by the Miami Marlins organization in July, but he’s not sure where he’ll be pitching this spring.
“Hopefully, I get healthy enough and everything’s going well,” said Zawacki, who was 2-2 with a 4.69 ERA in eight starts with the Grizzlies. “It’s not really going to be my call, but if I get brought in for a major league spring training, great. If I don’t, I just want to be healthy and go pitch somewhere. It’s been over two years now. When I’m healthy, that obviously gives me my best chance to do well. The No. 1 thing I’m looking forward to is actually being healthy.”
Kevin Chlum is the NewsTribune Sports Editor. He can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.