Turning the Paige

Nick Palma

“You will never play again.”

Those were the words the doctors told Paige Giunta when she had multiple surgeries on her right shoulder and elbow during her sophomore year of high school. She had torn both her labrum and rotator cuff, and believed she needed Tommy John surgery two months later.

Tommy John surgery, according to WebMD, is a surgery that repairs an injured elbow ligament. The surgery, which is also referred to as UCL reconstruction, is named after former Major League Baseball pitcher Tommy John, who underwent the first surgery of this type in 1974.

“They thought it was Tommy John [surgery] so I went under thinking it was Tommy John, but then they just took stuff out,” Giunta said. “So I was out 15 months during prime recruiting season.”

Giunta, who is a sophomore transfer from LaSalle University, had to battle through the hardships of rehabilitation while still trying to get recruited by a Division I softball team.

“It was awful,” Giunta said. “They verbally commit so early for softball but somehow I made it. I wasn’t allowed to throw for six months and throwing was awful. I still have pain today but it’s not nearly as bad.”

Giunta says poor mechanics and playing too much ultimately led to her injuries. Through all the adversity, though, she says her parents supported her the whole way.

After rehabbing for 15 months, Giunta finally got herself back on the field and was ready to verbally commit.
She had intentions on signing with Siena College prior to signing day.

“A day before signing day they dropped me, so I was like ‘oh man I hate softball.’ I was going to play a Division II school at Westchester and then I grew to love the game again so I talked to a few schools. I narrowed down my options and I chose LaSalle.”

Giunta wasn’t satisfied during her freshman year at LaSalle, however. She simply wasn’t happy. She went looking for a change and hopefully, a better opportunity.

“The academics are better here, it’s a beautiful school and I’m happier up here,” Giunta said.

Giunta admitted to being nervous at first, but everything wound up fitting into place.

“She came in as a transfer and I didn’t really get to know her over the fall but now she’s basically my best friend,” Giunta’s teammate, Molly Jarrett said. “Our relationships on and off the field compliment each other. On the field, we have each other’s back and that’s just always a good feeling.”

As Giunta was just about ready for the winter workouts, she started to feel some pain in her right knee. At first, she believed that it was tendinitis, something that would heal over time. But then she was forced to opt for surgery to take part of her meniscus out. She recovered in less than two months, though, and was still ready by the season opener.

“To be honest, I’m pro-surgery just because I’ve had so many,” Giunta said. “While in season, it’s hard to recover because I came back in six weeks. Obviously my play, you can see I was very rusty. Even though I wasn’t there physically for a while, they didn’t give up on me and they helped me the whole way.”

Bill Vasko, who is currently in his first season as the softball team’s assistant coach, has become aware of Giunta’s injury history and wants to make sure that she and other player’s take preventative measures so they can avoid further injuries.

“My first advice to any young athlete is to do a lot of preventative type of training to hopefully prevent those kind of injuries from happening, especially with female athletes,” Vasko said. “It’s really important that they do take time to allow their bodies to heal and recover from those kind of things.”

Giunta’s hard work payed off for the Bobcats on April 20, as the sophomore infielder hit a walk-off double against Monmouth University.

“I’m not hitting as well as I know I can,” Giunta said. “But I just went up there, I swung at ball four and then I fouled a couple of pitches off and I was like ‘alright this is annoying, got to hit the ball.’ So I hit it.”

It was the first walk-off hit of her college career, one that she described as the most exciting moment of her softball career.

“Softball is a sport where you have highs and lows,” Vasko said. “Everybody is going to struggle at some point, so we knew Paige has had her times when she struggled a little bit. Then she’s had times, especially in conference play, where she’s come through and had clutch hits so that’s really important.”

Guinta has the walk-off home run and six RBI’s in conference play this season.

Quinnipiac is currently 5-11 in the MAAC with only a week left in the regular season. The Bobcats would have to surpass sixth-place Manhattan, which has six wins, in order to reach the postseason.

“We just ask our kids to come out and compete every game and give it their best. Paige has always done that and hopefully something like that will build her confidence and also build over into what the team’s doing as we finish up these last few games,” Vasko said.

Guinta is very proud to be playing her next few years here at Quinnipiac, especially with all of the relationships she’s developed with her teammates.

Going forward, she continues to operate with that dedication and perseverance that helped get her back onto the softball field.

“I know if you work hard, you can get even better than you were,” Guinta said. “It just gives you a different sense of working hard, practice. You don’t take anything for granted.”