Hartman: Koskie supports healing Morneau

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 1, 2012 - 6:40 AM

The former Twins third baseman knows first-hand the effects of concussions and keeps his advice positive.

Former Twins and Brewers third baseman Corey Koskie, whose career ended because of concussions, keeps in touch with Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who is working to get over concussion symptoms that kept him out for a large part of last season.

Koskie said Morneau told the media the truth the other day when he said he might not be able to keep playing baseball if he continues to get concussions.

But Koskie also said Morneau told him the interview was "95-96 percent" positive until the question of the concussions came up, and said Morneau was simply being honest about his career if symptoms keep recurring.

Morneau suffered the concussion in July of 2010 after he took a knee to the head while sliding into second base and missed the remainder of the season. Lingering symptoms, along with several other injuries, limited him to 69 games in 2011.

Koskie said his problems started when he "basically just went for a pop fly and fell backwards" while playing for the Brewers.

"I tried to come back too early, and I kept trying to push myself through my symptoms and it got to the point where I wasn't able to do anything," he said. "That's the risk. You keep trying to push yourself through the symptoms, whether it's running ... or just mental stuff like reading or writing and conversations."

After he left Milwaukee in 2006, however, Koskie got to a point where he thought he was concussion-free. He signed a minor league contract with the Cubs in February 2009 and played in three spring training games, then retired.

"When I was with the Cubs, I went out there and I was playing, I was feeling great," Koskie said. "My thing was, I wanted to get back out there for myself, just because I knew when I went back out there and I played, I knew it was better. So I went back out there with the Cubs and I dove for a ball and I felt a little funky. I felt pretty weird for about four, five hours later, just after a little dive and I'm like, 'You know what, this is stupid. This isn't worth it, and enough.'"

Case-by-case basis

Koskie was asked if he can compare his situation with that of Morneau. Koskie said each concussion is different.

"The only person who knows how they're feeling is the person who's dealing with it," he said. "It's one of these injuries that's really tough because there's no doctor, nobody can tell you how long it's going to take. All I know is Justin really wants to be out there and this thing is a battle."

Koskie said he mainly tries to be a positive voice for the 2006 American League MVP.

"I just try to stay really positive with him because you can get down," he said. "It's so frustrating because you want to be out there, 'Why hasn't this gone away?' For me it was all the doctors saying, 'You didn't bang your head that bad.' It's just one of those things. I try to stay really positive with him, you know, don't worry, this will go away."

Koskie said one of the hardest aspects of deciding when to play is dealing with the lingering symptoms and trying to decide when you're really healthy.

"I questioned myself at night: 'Can I play through this? Why can't this go better?' You're questioning yourself and you get very sensitive and you think other people must be questioning you.

"For me, I played with a broken bone in my hand, all this stuff, and I'm like, 'Why can't I play with this?'"

Morneau has had similar accusations thrown at him regarding his ability to play through his concussion, even though his career before the injury was a model of consistency on the field. In 2006 he led the Twins with 157 games played. In 2007 he played the same number of games and trailed only Torii Hunter, who played in 160. In 2008 he led all of Major league Baseball by playing in 163 games because of the Twins' one-game playoff that season. From 2005-2009, he missed only 59 of a possible 812 games.

Koskie said if he ever wrote a book, the title would be "If I Only had a Cast."

"Because it's one of those things where it is internal and because there's nothing on an MRI that shows up and there's no timetable," he said. "It's just how you feel."

Coincidentally, a new book has come out on the topic called "The Concussion Crisis."

Jottings

• The entire committee selected to help name the successor to Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi met on Sunday with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler.

• The Wolves, going into Wednesday's game with the Lakers, were one of five Western Conference teams with a winning road record at 8-7. ... The Wolves also were 13-8 against Western teams. Only Oklahoma City (21-6), San Antonio (18-8), Dallas (15-9) and the Lakers (14-7) had better conference records. ... Going into Wednesday's game, the Wolves had won five of their past six, their most successful stretch since January 2009.

• Good news for Gophers football fans: Coach Jerry Kill is opening spring football practice to fans who care to watch. ... The Gophers have signed 6-3, 240-pound junior college linebacker Marceice "Bam Bam" Jackson out of Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College in Kansas, a school Kill knows well and has recruited before. Jackson has three years of eligibility left.

• The Gophers have landed Tartan standout defensive back Keelon Brookins as their first recruit of the 2013 class. Brookins said he had interest from other Big Ten schools and made a visit to Wisconsin. He told the Minnesota Daily that academics played a key role in his decision. "[The school I chose] had to have a fantastic education program," he said. "... My father went to the U and graduated with his master's and doctorate degree from Minnesota, so that had a big impact."

• Cretin-Derham Hall star James Onwualu, who might end up being the highest-ranked player from Minnesota in the 2013 class, ended up attending the Gophers' Junior Day event last weekend. Onwualu, a wide receiver/running back, has offers from the Gophers along with school such as Notre Dame, Michigan and Stanford. Onwualu averaged 7 yards per carry last season and rushed for 474 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games as a backup running back.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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