Pop. While on the mound last year, Wesley Noble felt a sensation that no athlete ever wants to experience: the feeling of his elbow giving way. After two more games of pitching, he could no longer lift his arm and was forced to come to terms with the fact that his life was about to change.
“I kind of had a reoccurring pain my whole life in my elbow,” says Noble, although the pop was certainly a sign of something gone wrong.
The CHS senior had yielded impressive statistics on the mound all season, with two wins, 19 strikeouts and a 0.38 earned run average, according to Max Preps. According to his Next College Student Athlete profile, Noble was also throwing an 87-mile-per-hour fastball and had been named the Mission Trail Athletic League pitcher of the year for the 2015 season.
After a series of tests, however, Noble learned that his ulnar collateral ligament had been torn, and the only option to fix it was to undergo Tommy John surgery, a specialized operation to repair the torn ligament, which he initially planned to try.
“I even had a surgery scheduled with Dr. [Rick] Ravalin in Monterey…but then I thought it wasn’t the best decision for me.”
The severity of the injury meant that his pitching days were over, but Noble continued to play as a designated hitter, finishing the 2016 season with a .333 batting average.
Since his decision to cancel the surgery, Noble’s time spent playing baseball has dwindled, as he no longer plays for his club team, though he suggests that he has enjoyed this change of pace.
“College would have been baseball [and] after college would have been baseball,” he notes.
Carmel Padres varsity baseball coach Randy Bispo, who has coached Noble the past three seasons, praises his ability to bounce back, citing him as not only one of the best athletes at CHS, but also as a team player who has handled this major setback with grace.
“He didn’t sit back feeling sorry for himself,” Bispo remarks of Noble, who is set to play baseball again for the 2017 season, leading off for the Padre offense and starting in right field.
Similarly, this suddenly devastating injury has not stopped Noble off the field either, as it has prompted him to look for new ways to occupy his time, pursuant with his keen interest in marine science and marine biology. With more time to focus on school, Noble has been able to specially tailor his schedule more toward the type of career he hopes to obtain in the future and is currently enrolled in four AP classes and three science courses.
“Wesley has…the mental toughness to recuperate,” Bispo notes.
He has also branched out to engage in different hobbies, having taken a new interest in the outdoors, particularly in backpacking and camping, and has gone on several self-led backpacking trips through the Ventana wilderness and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
His passion for marine science and his enhanced concern with the environment prompted Noble to discuss these interests with his father, who put him in contact with childhood friend Jim Barry, the senior scientist of the research division chair at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
“He gave me his phone number, and I called him,” recalls Noble, who has since visited MBARI several times periodically to assist in setting up the laboratory which is used to conduct research on ocean acidification.
Although he has yet to work directly with Barry, Noble has already made a clear reputation for himself.
“My impression of Wesley is that he is a motivated young man with lots of potential,” Barry says.
AP Environmental Science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin also praises Noble’s work ethic and character, saying that Noble is a clear leader in the classroom community and is both focused and charismatic.
“I’d say our relationship is special,” Maas-Baldwin says. “There’s an unspoken mutual respect and trust…that pervades our relationship and everyday interactions. Wesley is truly an inspiration to me.”