OJ Pitcher will make a long-anticipated return to cricket this weekend with St David’s, 658 days after collapsing in an Eastern Counties match at Lord’s with a heart issue that looked like ending his career.
Pitcher has faced many uncertainties since that life-changing day on July 22, 2017 when the St David’s and Bermuda captain collapsed on the field with chest pains against Bailey’s Bay in a first-round match. St David’s eventually lost the match by 61 runs after Pitcher was taken to hospital.
He endured a series of tests and doctor’s visits in his battle to recover, after missing last season in its entirety. Dr Shane Marshall, his cardiologist, gave him the all-clear late last year.
“I’ve been seeing Dr Marshall for the past year and a half, going to him around every three months for different tests and follow ups,” said 35-year-old.
“With the condition I had, it was about building my strength back up. In order to do that I started off with light stuff and then over a period of time gradually building it up to get stronger and stronger until it gets to a point where they felt I was strong enough to get back out there.
“I found out in November that he was very pleased and confident enough to say ‘I feel you are able to get back out there playing some cricket’.
“Obviously I was over the moon about that, since then I’ve been doing my extras and have been feeling really good.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there playing some cricket. I still have passion and love for the sport; it is something I was brought up on, coming from St David’s, and it feels really good to get back out there and do what I enjoy doing.”
Pitcher, a professional golfer, used that sport to keep active, playing in the Johnny Walker Classic last weekend on his home course at Ocean View, where he tied for third with Daniel Augustus, just two strokes behind Dwayne Pearman and Chaka DeSilva, who won in a play-off.
“I’ve been competing in some local professional golf events and did pretty good in them,” Pitcher said. “It helped keep my hand-eye co-ordination going as well.
“As we know, golf is nowhere as strenuous as cricket but there are some similarities to golf, like the swing when it comes to batting.”
Pitcher will feature for St David’s against Bailey’s Bay on Sunday in a match that will certainly bring back some memories.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of time on my own, the body feels good, I’m in good shape right now and ready to,” Pitcher said.
“I obviously missed it a lot, it was very hard to be on the side watching. But they can tell you, I was at every game supporting, no matter where the game was.
“I work weekends in the mornings, but as soon as a knocked off I would go straight to the games and help out in any way that I could.
“It was hard, but I made sure I was there, backing the boys and supporting them.”
Pitcher was there last year at Sea Breeze Oval to witness the exciting victory over Cleveland County in the Eastern Counties Cup final, ensuring that St David’s will be the defending champions when they host this year’s series at Lord’s, taking on Bay in the opening round.
“Winning the county cup back was a great feeling, great to see, even though we didn’t win it back from Bay, but Cleveland,” he said. “I was also proud of the boys, too, with how the entire season went. We won not just county, but the T20 league and the Premier Champions Cup between the top two teams in the league, St David’s and Rangers.
“We won three trophies overall and in the 50 overs we won more games than everybody else.
“It was just the bonus points, which Rangers got a lot of, which helped to carry them ahead of us on points. It shows the depth that we have in St David’s when it comes to cricket.”
Pitcher is hoping to make up for lost time, as he sets his sights on not only reclaiming a place in the St George’s Cup Match team but also the Bermuda team, maybe even for this summer’s ICC T20 Americas Qualifying tournament, which Bermuda will host in August.
“I have been training with St David’s and have also been to a training session with the [Bermuda] squad,” Pitcher added.
“I have made myself available for that, as well as for Cup Match, God willing, and if all goes well. I’m anxious to get back out there and really looking forward to it.”
Pitcher has been moved by the support shown by so many fans following his illness. “The support shown from friends and fans was really something,” he said. “It wasn’t just the fans and friends in St David’s but the entire island.
“Still today, at times people will ask, ‘How you feeling, how you been’, especially if they haven’t seen me in a while. At one point it did get a bit overwhelming, but I know people meant well.
“I just want to thank everybody for their support and concerns. I want them to know that I’m doing very good and back doing what it is I love to do.
“There was a point when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get back out there again. I’m looking forward to being out there with the boys, whether it be St David’s, St George’s in Cup Match or Bermuda.”
n St David’s match against St George’s orginally scheduled for Saturday, has been rearranged to May 18.