HAMMOND | Two years ago, Cody Earl spent the baseball season sitting on the Morton bench in pain.
He'd broken his back in a sledding accident having fun with the members of the Morton baseball team.
A surgery in December 2012 was supposed to have fixed it, but when his sophomore season with the Governors rolled around, he could only play a couple of games before the pain returned.
He had a second surgery on his L5 vertebrae last July and was cleared to play fall baseball with the Hammond Hurricane.
"I feel the pain when it gets really cold, but when I'm playing, it's just fine," Earl said.
In his first full season of high school ball, the junior is showing he was worth the wait.
He is hitting .636 in 14 games for the Governors (10-4) with 20 runs from the No. 3 spot, 25 RBIs and seven doubles. He has four homers, including two hit in an extra-inning game against Times No. 2 Munster.
Missing the last two seasons, this is his first year with the BBCOR bats, those that have less "pop" than the bats used three years ago.
"I knew he was exceptional, I knew he was going, I didn't know he was going to be this good because of his injuries," Morton coach Scott Lush said. "I could see his freshman year he was a step above everyone else. He's got the heart and it crushed him that he couldn't play for two years."
As a pitcher, Earl is 2-1, allowed 13 hits and holds a 2.15 ERA.
He said that all of his time on the bench taught him more than patience.
"I've been waiting just to play, I didn't care if I did great, I just want our team to win," Earl said. "Just playing the game is a lot better than sitting and watching. I saw a lot of different stuff you don't see when you're playing, I picked up signs from other coaches and little things you don't see when you're focused on what you're supposed to do. Watching all of the older players that graduated, that helped me, and when I'd see stuff and told coach, that helped both of us out."
That has translated into patience at the plate. He's struck out just twice this season.
"What I've been saying the last couple of years about Cody is that he's the best player nobody knows about, but now they're getting to know him," Lush said. "The thing about him is that he won't chase after bad pitches. They could throw him a curve ball in the dirt, but he won't chase after that. That's what's special about him."
Through two back surgeries and two rehabilitation stints, Earl has changed his mind about his future. Previously hoping to be an engineer, Earl has set his sights on physical therapy as he starts looking for a college.
"After one round of physical therapy, I knew that was it," Earl said.