By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
BUFFALO, New York – Carson Perkins’ freshman season at Canisius College got off to a less-than-ideal start, to say the least.
Following the first series of the year for the Golden Griffins against Gardner Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C., the squad travelled to Lake Point, Ga., for a weekend tournament. Before play began, the 18-year-old right-hander began to experience some discomfort in his mouth, and thinking the pain was nothing, allowed it to get to a point where he needed an immediate procedure.
“I had a tooth infection that just came out of nowhere,” Perkins said. “It got infected and then I got rushed into emergency surgery four days later. We were in Georgia playing on the weekend and my mouth started to hurt on the Thursday. Then by Tuesday, my neck and throat were all swollen up and I was in bed until Friday.
“Saturday morning I had emergency surgery. They cut my gums open and drained puss because it was so swollen and inflamed and infected. It was very gross. Then I was another week in bed here. Then we were on a week break, so I flew home and had a second surgery, a couple minor incisions to keep draining.”
After the first procedure was performed, the righty’s mother Richelle flew to Buffalo from their home in Bienfait, Sask., to care for her son, doing his laundry and taking him out to eat whatever he was able to ingest for the three days of her visit.
When all was said and done, Perkins had undergone two root canals as well as having a tooth pulled, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound hurler losing 30 pounds in the process, barely able to eat and experiencing nausea often.
“It was a filling from when I was eight years old that had caved in from just eating food,” Perkins explained. “Then eventually it got infected. It was unfortunate. It was pretty painful. I was stuck in my bed for a good two weeks. I was having a couple yogurt tubes in the morning every day. With all the antibiotics and medicine everything else was making me really sick. So I lost a bunch of weight…
“I’m gaining it all back. It was only because I was malnourished and wasn’t eating, that’s where most of my weight went, so it came back pretty fast. I didn’t lose a whole lot of strength. I had a week of modified lifting and doing a little bit more, but now I’m back where I was before, as far as lifting and throwing go.”
With just 16 innings over six appearances under Perkins' belt with the Griffs, 10 weeks after the pain in his mouth originated, he is enjoying his first taste of college baseball, and everything the team experience brings.
“It’s been awesome here, other than that,” Perkins said. “The guys get along so well. It’s tons of fun. It’s everything I thought it would be, for sure. Going to Vauxhall [Baseball Academy in Alberta] prepares you pretty well for coming down here, so far as the day-to-day baseball and school, so it wasn’t really a huge cultural shock, and being away from home is fine. It’s been going well and I expected it to be pretty similar to this.”
With Perkins on the Golden Griffins roster are two other Jets graduates, in junior southpaw J.P. Stevenson, from New Glasgow, P.E.I., and sophomore hurler Jared Kennedy from Calgary, Alta., along with six other Canadians including Ontarians Jake Lumley, Zach Sloan, Josh Shepley, Liam Wilson and Nick Capitano and Montreal, Que., native Cyrus Senior, who have all helped to make his transition to the college realm a whole lot easier.
“I knew Jared from Vauxhall, and J.P. I didn’t know before I came here because he was two years older,” Perkins said. “But all those guys at Vauxhall knew him and they said that we would get along well and we’re obviously very close. Having a lot of Canadians is definitely comforting, and I’ve been feeling right at home since the first day.”
Before Canisius, playing at Vauxhall helped Perkins earn a spot on the team representing the prairie provinces at the third-annual Tournament 12 in 2015, hosted by the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in September. There, Perkins was named MVP of the event following his squad’s championship victory, and sparking his stint on the Canadian Junior National Team.
“T12 was the big moment where I knew that things could keep happening,” Perkins said. “That was my first time on a big stage, and then a week after that I had the call to play for the Junior National Team, and then it was like a wakeup call, here we are. That was cool.”
The young hurler wore the red-and-white jersey on four trips with Team Canada, matching up against professionals during instructional league play in Orlando, Fla., at spring training in St. Petersburg, Fla., extended spring training in Orlando, and then in the Dominican Republic.
“That was amazing,” Perkins said. “Especially going to Vauxhall, where it was a very competitive environment, so when you get that call and everyone is happy for you and you’re going down to Florida and playing games with them, you play against unreal players and you get to see what it’s like to play at the next level.
“It helps to make the decision between whether you want to go and play in the MLB system or go to school, and it was super cool. I email Greg [Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] sometimes to tell him that it was such an amazing experience and I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of it.”
Beyond the welcome he’s received from his Canadian teammates, both Hamilton and Les McTavish, the head coach at Vauxhall, aided Perkins the most in preparing for the college baseball life and what he would be facing when he arrived in Buffalo.
“Greg and Les talked a lot about the importance of school and studying and stuff like that,” Perkins said. “That you can get carried away when you’re in the first two months of school and you’re away from home, living in a dorm, and it catches up on you. It definitely happened to me but it wasn’t too long before I learned that you’ve got to pay a little bit more attention.”
Looking to follow in his father Kevin’s footsteps and become a high school teacher, anticipating majoring in education at Canisius when he declares, Perkins believes he has already evolved a great deal in his first year of post-secondary school, and is excited for what more is to come both on and off the field.
“It’s pretty crazy how much I’ve changed already,” Perkins said. “As far as the level of competition goes and what everyone here has, it’s something that I’ve never played with before.
“With every guy here, everything is truly selfless every single game. That’s something that’s kind of opened my eyes. It’s a cool feeling to be on a team where everyone is very willing to compete, and to compete for each other, so it’s awesome.”