Jeremy Milito, a senior on the Stony Brook bowling team, will never forget how bad he was the first time he ever went bowling.
He also remembers the countless hours he spent with his parents trying to improve to become the bowler he is today.
“I was very bad, I got like a 30 and cried all the way home,” Milito said jokingly. “But, we used to go everyday, just trying to get better.”
Fast-forward 10 years, and Milito is drawing from that consistency and work ethic to bounce back for a strong senior season. Milito, who qualified for the Intercollegiate Singles Championships, or nationals, his sophomore year, is now overcoming a torn ligament in his left wrist that plagued him during his junior year.
“Last summer it actually tore on me,” Milito said. “It was one of the ligaments in my wrist, they told me the name, but I didn’t want to know, I just knew it hurt.”
Since then, he has been working to recover from the injury and return even stronger.
However, the road to recovery and redemption has been a long, arduous and taxing one. He almost knew immediately that something was not right, but it was not until later that he found out the extent of the injury.
“I injured it during a tournament, but when I got home I knew it wasn’t going to be good,” Milito said. “I remember it woke me up [several nights] in the middle of the night because it hurt so bad.”
After the pain worsened for a few weeks, Milito knew he could not play through the injury like he had done earlier in his life, he knew it was time to get medical help.
Little did he know his options were dwindling and his bowling career was up in the air.
“Going from doctor to doctor, trying to see what I could do about it, they all recommended surgery or physical therapy,” he said. “There was no guarantee I was going to bowl again.”
Knowing that surgery might set him back and ultimately end his career, Milito opted to strengthen the area around the ligament through physical therapy.
“I was close [to getting surgery], but my parents were actually the ones who told me try physical therapy first and if it doesn’t go well then get surgery,” Milito recalls.
But as he soon found out, coming back sooner did not mean a more painless alternative.
Many times during the process, he had to rededicate himself and rediscover the same patience he built as a child looking to improve on his score of 30.
“It was definitely challenging, there were days you don’t want to do it, days you don’t want to go to physical therapy because you can’t do certain things, and you just want to quit and say ‘get the surgery,’” Milito said.
“But I was brought up to be patient, I try not to let things get to me too fast.”
The Holbrook native looks back at the rehab process as frustrating and painful. He remembers how it took two months for him to be able to turn a doorknob without any discomfort.
Despite the taxing ordeal, the memories he takes away from that period are the ones with the people who helped him get through it.
“There were a lot of ups and downs during it,” Milito said. “But I have a great support system, a great team, great family, great friends and they’ve just helped me stay positive the whole time.”
Now, after months of electric stimulation, weight exercises, hand bikes and a ton of stretching, Milito is back to bowling five or six times a week without any significant pain.
Feeling rejuvenated, he now looks to help the rest of the team to nationals.
“The goal is to have a good season,” Milito said. “Hopefully by the time March rolls around, we’ll be ready for sectionals and take nationals.”
Although Milito is optimistic and confident about this season, he does recognize that there will be substantial obstacles, including the growing pains that come with a young team.
“As a team, it’s a lack of experience,” Milito said. “We’re all talented physically, so it’s just the mental hurdle that we need to get over.”
However, as a senior leader, Milito will be expected to guide the inexperienced team over those hurdles.
“Jeremy has the most experience on the team with college bowling and knows what it takes to be successful on the team,” said first-year coach Derek James. “He will be a great influence for the team to have a successful season.”
On the verge of his final season as a bowler for Stony Brook, Milito sits in the commuter lounge, staring pensively at his left wrist as he reminisces about the journey he has been on.
“It’s been a long, hard road of bad bowling and trial and error,” Milito said. “But when season starts I’ll be 100 percent.”
As for being a leader on such a young team, Milito understands that he cannot use the injury as a crutch.
“I think pressure defines you,” he said. “Anybody can do it when it doesn’t matter, but when it counts I think it shows who you are and how much talent you have.”
Nevertheless, with Milito coming off a major injury and a team that is abundant with fresh faces and a new coach, the Seawolves will be overlooked, right? Wrong.
Milito feels that the team is dangerous moving forward, and remains as confident now as he was when he reached nationals two years ago.
“Don’t underestimate us,” Milito said. “We’re coming for you.”
Milito and the Seawolves will open their season in Lancaster, Pa. for the Pennsylvania Classic on Oct. 18.