Despite setbacks, senior player reflects on success

first_imgNick Entin | Daily TrojanDifficult choices · Michael Hutchings considered quitting football after his father’s death during his freshman year, but decided against it.Senior Michael Hutchings has two favorite memories from four years as a Trojan. One at the beginning, one at the end.His first came in November of his freshman year, when a team in transition with a new head coach and something to prove knocked off No. 5 Stanford in front of a sold-out home crowd. The team rallied, former quarterback Cody Kessler threw a key touchdown and a defense-heavy game ended in a 20-17 victory. The stadium shook with cheers as the final whistle blew. Fans streamed over the barricades and onto the field, with cell phones held high to record the madness. Hutchings didn’t start, didn’t record a single tackle all game. But standing on the grass of the Coliseum in the middle of the crowd, he felt like he’d finally made it.A month and 29 days later, he felt as if his world was flipping on its head. He’d lost his father, his idol, the man he was named for, to a battle with pancreatic cancer that didn’t last half of a year. His father, who watched film and scouted opponents, who called him before each game to give him a rundown of suggestions and who taught him to love football.His dad only saw him play a handful of USC games. He was hospitalized soon after moving Hutchings into his dorm. By New Year’s, he was too weak to open presents for his birthday. He died on a January afternoon, two weeks after turning 49.It was a loss that Hutchings couldn’t shake. For him, football and family were intertwined, inseparable. Without his dad, Hutchings wasn’t sure what was left to love about the sport.“It was hard,” Hutchings said. “It was easy to feel like there wasn’t much to keep playing for.”He started skipping team meetings and coming to practices late. Clay Helton, an interim coach at the time, was told to keep an eye on him. For awhile, Hutchings considered just quitting football entirely.Hutchings isn’t sure why he stayed. But he did, grinding through practices, staying steady through every head coach replacement and front page scandal. It wasn’t easy, he said, but it was worth it. The whole team took each season one practice at a time. They trusted in the future, that a season would come when it all would fall into place.In 2016, Hutchings decided that this season, his last season, was the year. As a sophomore, he fell to second string and spent two years clawing his way back into the team’s rotation. But as a senior, he felt ready to leave an impression that wouldn’t fade easily.“I had one year left and I didn’t have anything to lose,” Hutchings said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get any days back. There was no next year. I gave everything I had each day.”The difference was noticeable to Hutchings almost immediately. He attacked every practice at spring camp and approached the locker room just as fervently, making sure to connect with each of his teammates.In August, Hutchings was named a captain alongside Max Browne, Zach Banner and Adoree’ Jackson. A bright red “C” emblazoned his jersey as he started every single game, tying for the second most total tackles for the team. And through a shaky start and a roller coaster finish to his final season, Hutchings focused on being there for his teammates every game, every practice and every day.It was a year to be proud of, a year with nothing to lose and everything to gain. And Hutchings made the most of it. Until this year, his father’s death was a weight, hanging heavily. But now, it’s a constant motivation.“It made me grow off the field a tremendous amount,” Hutchings said. “It made me look at sports, look at football in a different way. I look at it as more of a privilege. It helped me grow to take a step back and appreciate everything that was in front of me.”This year was a turning point for Hutchings. It brought him to his second greatest memory — Saturday’s game against Notre Dame — and the most recent, its vibrance still fading after a few days. He’s not sure what it was about the game, whether it was the pelting rain or the roaring student section or Jackson’s leap over a defender to sprint into the end zone. He recorded five total tackles, but Hutchings’ stats weren’t his focus at the end of the day.It was something about the energy, the way his teammates grinned and laughed and hugged each other after every play. The sideline brimmed with excitement, and Hutchings fed off of it. It took until later, after the game ended and the locker room cleared out, that the weight of his final game in his home field sunk in.“After, when everything was all done, it settled in that it was my last game,” Hutchings said. “Afterwards it hit me hard. This team, it means a lot to all of us. I’ve grown so much as a part of it and when you look back, it just means a lot more than you can say.”Part of that has to do with Helton, a man Hutchings has known since he was 14, since he first considered putting on a USC jersey. He praises the head coach for his fierce loyalty and his determination to support and connect with each of his players.But most of what Hutchings will take away from USC has nothing to do with post-game statistics or highlight reels. It’s the teammates, he says, the friends who have become close to brothers. He respects his teammates, looks up to them and learns from them.“You’re just around all these guys who set great work ethics and great examples,” Hutchings said. “The game provides so much more than just playing. You learn to appreciate people a lot more and know that your problems aren’t the biggest. The fun, the team that I had during this time — that’s what I’ll take away.”Hutchings likes to think that his greatest memory at USC isn’t made just yet. There’s one game left — the unannounced bowl game, a final chance for every senior to make their mark on the team.After that, he’ll graduate in the spring, along with 13 other seniors on the team. He’s not sure what will happen then, what will come next.But Hutchings know one thing for sure. In a few weeks, he’ll put on a jersey labeled “19” on the back and “C” on the chest. He’ll think about his dad, about the advice he would give if he could, and he’ll look for his mom in the stands. He’ll dance with his teammates on the field, cheer from the sidelines and throw hard hits when he can.He’ll play as a Trojan, one last time. And for now, that’s the only thing Hutchings wants to worry about.last_img read more

Dodgers salvage a win after losing pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu to a groin injury

first_imgRyu will have an MRI exam Thursday. The left-hander said through an interpreter that he hurt the same groin two years ago and needed a month to recover. He thinks this one is worse, and the team is bracing for a disabled list stint.“Just by the talk from the training staff, it’s a pretty (bad) one,” Roberts said.On what could have been a disastrous evening, the Dodgers (13-17) left the ballpark with a chance to split the four-game series against the first-place Diamondbacks (21-9) on Thursday afternoon.Sign up for our Inside the Dodgers newsletter. Be the best Dodger fan you can be by getting daily intel on your favorite team. Subscribe here.The victory halted the Dodgers’ four-game losing streak and an eight-game regular-season skid in Phoenix.Monday’s bullpen game was by design. Losing Ryu, their best starting pitcher to this point in the season, was not part of the plan Wednesday. Dodgers’ Dave Roberts says baseball’s unwritten rules ‘have changed, should change’ Ryu leads the staff with a 2.12 earned-run average, the sixth-lowest in the National League, and had a chance to improve his record to 4-0.Even before his groin finally gave out, there were signs Ryu wasn’t right Wednesday. He threw nine four-seam fastballs, touching 92 only once; the pitch had averaged 92 in Ryu’s first five starts. Then there was the painfully slow curve.It’s been a painful week for the Dodgers. Yasiel Puig was placed on the 10-day disabled list Sunday. The big blow came Monday when All-Star shortstop Corey Seager learned he needed season-ending elbow surgery. Half of the team’s projected opening-day lineup is on the disabled list now; so too is starter Rich Hill, who was unable to pitch Monday because of a persistent wound on his left middle finger. Add Ryu to the list of the walking wounded.Between the injuries and a bullpen that’s struggled mightily (4-6, 4.77), the Dodgers were due for a break.“The biggest win outside of statistically is the ’pen, and how they performed tonight for their confidence,” Roberts said.Pedro Baez was the first pitcher out of the bullpen. The right-hander was given as many pitches as he needed to warm up. Baez eventually declared himself ready, and the 2-2/3 shutout innings that followed matched the longest scoreless outing of his career. That it came on the heels of Baez’s worst outing of the season – he allowed three runs in one-third of an inning Saturday in San Francisco – made the performance all the more stunning.Baez worked out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth inning. Daniel Hudson (1-0) followed with two no-hit innings against his former mates. Tony Cingrani pitched a scoreless seventh, and Josh Fields tossed a scoreless eighth with a lot of help from his defense.David Peralta led off the inning with a double, then tagged up and went to third base on a sacrifice fly by Nick Ahmed. Paul Goldschmidt drew a walk, leaving Fields to deal with A.J. Pollock. Named the National League player of the month earlier in the day, Pollock stepped to the plate with four home runs in his last two games.Fields got what he needed when Pollock smoked a 100-mph ground ball to Dodgers shortstop Kiké Hernandez. The ball found Hernandez’s backhand on one hop, kickstarting an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Whicker: Dustin May yet another example of the Dodgers’ eye for pitching Verdugo doubled in the first inning against Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley (4-2). He took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Cody Bellinger single.Verdugo struck again with an opposite-field double in the eighth inning against reliever T.J. McFarland. He took third base on yet another wild pitch and scored on a Yasmani Grandal sacrifice fly.Batting second for the first time in his career, Verdugo finished 2 for 4.For Ryu, the other shoe will drop Thursday.“It doesn’t feel good,” he said of the groin injury. “It was the last pitch that probably got me.”“I’m definitely very disappointed,” he continued. “I came into the season very healthy and I actually had pretty good performances throughout the beginning of the season. At this point, I’m not really sure. We’ll have to see how the result comes back. At this point, I feel frustrated and disappointed.” “At that moment of the game, how locked in everyone is focus-wise, the ball gets to you and you react. You have to do anything in your power to stop it and keep it in front of you. I was able to get a glove on it.”Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth inning for his first save – on his first attempt – since April 22. He allowed Arizona’s only run on a two-out single by John Ryan Murphy, then closed the door by retiring Alex Avila on a flyout.“Tonight we had no margin for error essentially, against a very good team playing well,” Roberts said. “Each one of those guys stepped up.”Related Articlescenter_img Dodgers’ hot-hitting Corey Seager leaves game with back injury Dodgers bench slumping Cody Bellinger for a day Dodgers’ Justin Turner looking rejuvenated on defense PreviousLos Angeles Dodgers celebrate a 2-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu leaves the baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an injury during the first inning Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers Alex Verdugo follows through on a double against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsArizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Godley throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger follows through on an RBI base hit against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers Alex Verdugo scores on a base hit by Cody Bellinger as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy looks on during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers Alex Verdugo (61) scores on a base hit by Cody Bellinger as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy stands near the plate during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Arizona Diamondbacks Deven Marrero throws to first against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, center, talks with a trainer after an injury during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. Ryu left the game. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu leaves the game with the trainer after an injury against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Arizona Diamondbacks Chris Owings (16) hits against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson hits against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Godley watches a pitch to a Los Angeles Dodgers batter during the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez throws to an Arizona Diamondbacks batter during the third inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger follows through on a base hit against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte (4) throws to first after forcing out Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger (35) on a double play hit into by Matt Kemp during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 02: Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers points the the crowd from inside his dugout during the second inning of a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 2, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 02: Alex Verdugo #61 of the Los Angeles Dodgers slides safely into third base ahead of the tag by Deven Marrero #10 of of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning at Chase Field on May 2, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)Los Angeles Dodgers Alex Verdugo (61) scores on a sacrifice by Yasmani Grandal during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy waits for the throw. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers Alex Verdugo (61) scores on a sacrifice by Yasmani Grandal during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodger’ Alex Verdugo (61) scores on a sacrifice by Yasmani Grandal during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy waits for the throw. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers’ Alex Verdugo (61) celebrates with Cody Bellinger (35) after scoring on a sacrifice by Yasmani Grandal during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (AP Photo/Matt York)PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 02: Alex Verdugo #61 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring a run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning at Chase Field on May 2, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 02: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers makes a play on a wild throw while covering first base as Chris Owings #16 of the Arizona Diamondbacks attempts to beat out the throw during the sixth inning at Chase Field on May 2, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Owings was forced out at first base. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen, right, greets catcher Yasmani Grandal after a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. The Dodgers won 2-1. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate a 2-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu leaves the baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an injury during the first inning Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)NextShow Caption1 of 27Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu leaves the baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an injury during the first inning Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)ExpandPHOENIX — It was an innocent curveball that looked slow by design. MLB’s Statcast technology clocked the pitch at 63.8 mph, which happened to be slower than any of Hyun-Jin Ryu’s 8,219 other pitches tracked on BrooksBaseball.net. Ryu threw two more pitches to Ketel Marte, induced a groundout, then looked toward the dugout. He was in pain.In the next moment, Ryu and his interpreter were talking to Dave Roberts and a Dodgers trainer on the back of the mound. Ryu stretched his legs and shook his head. He walked gingerly toward the dugout, his workday over, while the Dodgers’ manager looked understandably lost.Ryu left the game with a left groin strain, and the Dodgers were mired in their second bullpen game in three days. This time they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1 before an announced crowd of 19,531 at Chase Field. Rookie Alex Verdugo scored both Dodger runs, and six pitchers turned a rescue mission into a near-shutout.“Hyun-Jin going down that early in the game is not only a huge loss for the team,” Dodgers shortstop Kiké Hernandez said. “Hopefully this (game) is something we can build off.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more