FORT MYERS, FLA. - It was like old times for Corey Koskie. He followed Michael Cuddyer into the batting cage on a back field at the Twins spring training complex, took a swing and heard former Twins manager Tom Kelly barking, "Head down; patience now, patience is a virtue."
It was like old times, and Koskie is grateful that it was nothing like recent times. For more than two years, Koskie suffered from symptoms of post- concussion syndrome that confounded many of the doctors he visited.
When he tried to exercise, he became dizzy and sick and had to lay down until the symptoms subsided. He couldn't even watch television.
Koskie, the former Twins third baseman, feared he would never be able to play baseball with his kids again. Now he's playing baseball, informally, with his old team, and preparing to play baseball, formally, for his native country.
After finding a doctor, trainer and physical therapist able to help him this winter, Koskie asked the Twins if he could take batting practice with them this spring. He wanted to prove to himself that he could hit live pitching, and persuade the Canadian team set to play in the World Baseball Classic he was worthy of a roster spot.
Team Canada spoke with Canadian first baseman Justin Morneau, Koskie's friend and former teammate, and Morneau gave him a positive recommendation. "That helped," Koskie said.
Professional athletes make big money, but their careers are fragile as origami. After leaving the Twins, Koskie fell backward and hit his head while chasing a popup with Milwaukee in 2006.
He suffered a concussion and was stunned that he couldn't find help. "It was really frustrating," he said. "Just the fact that nobody really believes you, questioning whether you want to play or don't want to play, and that makes zero sense -- zero sense.
"It feels pretty -- I don't know if disrespected is the word -- but everything you've accomplished they throw out the window because your name is mud. You want to go out there, but you can't. It's very frustrating."
Koskie said he encountered ignorance about the severity of concussions.
"In the medical community in general, there are very few people who understand the concussion," he said. "So people are basing their decisions off what they hear from the medical community, because they're supposed to be the experts, and it's frustrating.
"When I talk to doctors around the Twin Cities, I know more about concussions than they do. I talked to some neurologists, and I know more about concussions than they do. They're basing their stuff off guidelines that were set in 1982. It's getting better, people are starting to understand a little bit more, but it just blows your mind, the way they're sending kids out there who still have brain injuries. I just don't get it."
This winter, Koskie found a team of specialists able to help him, and in two months he went from not being able to swing a bat without getting dizzy to hitting line drives in live batting practice. He plans to finish the week working out with the Twins, then leave for Team Canada's camp in Dunedin, Fla.
"I finally found a guy who specializes in whiplash and neck injuries, and all of a sudden I'm down here playing baseball," Koskie said. "I was doing full workouts in the middle of January and just feeling great. They were able to open up my neck, which had been stuck for 2 1/2 years."
Koskie doesn't know whether he will attempt to re-enter pro ball. He isn't keen on playing in the minors, and figures if he can sign with a team during spring training, he can be evaluated fully before the season begins.
The past few days, Koskie looked happy just to be back in Twins camp. He wore his own sweats and borrowed a helmet, looking out of place and yet at home.
"Yeah, it was good," Koskie said quietly, sitting on the bench with his son, Joshua, after a workout. "It was good, just to be around here. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out."
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • email@example.com