Rowley Rams starting pitcher Mike Sloban has always been a tough competitor.
“Once you get on the baseball field, you kind of zone in, you don’t pay attention to the pain,” said Sloban. “But it was always there.”
A Pentucket alumnus, Sloban was just coming off his junior season last year as the Pitcher of the Year for the UMass Lowell River Hawks when he took a two-week break before taking the mound once again for the Rams. Sloban had served as a closer for the Intertown League squad the previous summer. There was, however, one problem last summer: Sloban had been suffering from what felt like a constant ear infection in his left ear for the six months prior.
Sloban went to Health Services at school to have it checked out, and the findings were inconclusive. The pain continued, and Sloban finally saw a specialist.
“Even he didn’t know what it was at first,” said Sloban. “He would go in there and try to take it out. And I told him to leave some of my brain in there because I had finals coming up. That’s when they diagnosed it as what it really was.”
Sloban was inflicted with a cholesteatoma, a type of cyst located in the middle ear and skull bone that fills with dead skin cells. In Sloban’s case, the dead skin had enveloped his eardrum.
“I was in pain the whole time,” said Sloban, 23. “But you are throwing so often at UMass Lowell that it doesn’t really have time to interfere with anything.”
The mechanical engineering major finished out his junior season and had surgery scheduled for mid-summer, taking a two-week break before summer ball. That’s when things started to get strange.
“I always have had kind of a hitch in my delivery,” said Sloban. “But all of a sudden, everything was out of whack. I was landing with my front foot before my upper half was ready to throw.”