One-On-One Sit Down with Darin Holcomb

By Kevin Henry    (Tulsa Examiner)


Every day that Darin Holcomb can step on the field and take his position at third base for the Tulsa Drillers is a good day for the native of Spokane, Wash.

Holcomb missed all of last season suffering from spondylolisthesis, a condition where the L5 vertebrae in his lower back has slipped forward and is causing damage to L4 as well.

Holcomb, who was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 12th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, entered Saturday night’s action hitting .257 with four homers and 22 RBIs. I recently had the chance to sit down with Holcomb and talk about his back, the rough emotional season of 2010, and his hopes and goals for the future.

Kevin Henry: First and foremost, how is your back?

Darin Holcomb: It’s holding up. I can’t really ask for much more than that. I have my good and bad days. I have a series of stretches and core exercises that help me and I do those every day.

Henry: In previous years, you’ve said that your back has deteriorated as the season has gone along. What can you do to prepare for that, if anything?

Holcomb: It’s a long season and I usually really start feeling it around the All-Star break. I know that I have to grind through it and play through it. Surgery isn’t an option for me (it would mean the end of Holcomb’s career), so I have to keep up with my exercise routines and do the best that I can. I’ve had a ton of cortisone shots and they provide short-term relief.

Henry: How hard was missing all of last season for you?

Holcomb: It was really tough. I had never missed more than a week at one time before that. I think it was really hard on me mentally. I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to play this season or ever again. Having thoughts like that can really wear on you.

Henry: When did you know that you would actually be able to play this season?

Holcomb: I think it was when I started picking up my activities and started swinging again. I knew after that that I could at least get to spring training. My back held up there, so I knew I could keep playing. That was a huge relief for me. It was hard not seeing all of the guys, but when I got back, I felt like all of the hard work I did in 2010 was worth it.

Henry: Looking back, did you ever doubt that you’d be back on the field in 2011?

Holcomb: It crossed my mind, but I wanted to trust the rehabilitation process. My mindset was to keep working hard and good things would happen.

Henry: I’ve read that one of the side effects you face from your back problems is a loss of range in the field and power at the plate. How has that affected your play?

Holcomb: It does affect me. I have shooting pains down my leg in the field and I can’t use the lower half of my body at the plate. It hasn’t changed my swing because I’ve never been a big power hitter. I’ve always been more of a contact hitter.

Henry: One of your biggest supporters has been Tulsa hitting coach Dave Hajek. How important was it to have him in Tulsa during your “comeback” season?

Holcomb: It was very important. He knows me as a person and he knows my swing. When I heard I was coming back to Tulsa, he was the first guy I wanted to see. We work together every day and he helps me with my swing and the mental aspect of the game. I wasn’t worried about where they were going to send me after spring training, but coming back to Tulsa was my first choice because of Dave.

Henry: What goals do you have for the rest of the season?

Holcomb: I want to be productive and help my team win. I want to stay healthy and stay on the field. Like everyone else, I want to move up, but my main goal is to stay healthy and play every day.

Henry: When you see a teammate get called up like Juan Nicasio did recently, what does that do for your mindset?

Holcomb: It inspires me. To see that you can go from Tulsa to the big leagues shows that you’re really that close to reaching your dream. It makes everyone happy to see their teammate succeed and do well. It also shows that the process we’re going through and everything we’re doing, we’re doing the right way.

Henry: The Drillers are currently leading the Texas League’s North Division. What is it about this team that has helped it succeed so far?

Holcomb: Top to bottom, this is a solid team. We have good pitching and good defense, and we’re all pulling for each other. This is a team without cliques and we all get along. That helps a lot, and I think at the end of the year, it will help us a lot.

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