It’s no wonder that Carter Gladstone has shown a tremendous ability to be patient at the plate.

When most of your high school career has been spent dealing with the downtime forced upon you by disease and the rules of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, you tend to look at things, not just balls and strikes but life as a whole, with a critical eye.

“He has a tremendous feel for the strike zone,” Valley Christian coach Kyle Smith said. “He is beyond his years when it comes to balls and strikes. He struck out for the first time (on Friday) for the first time all season. How amazing was that?”

Extremely considering Gladstone, who entered the week ranked 12th in the nation in on-base percentage according to MaxPreps, never took a varsity at-bat until this year because of an affliction that wiped out his sophomore year where he didn’t even attend school.

In August of 2009, Gladstone was diagnosed with Osteochondritis Dissecans (OD), a joint disorder which cracks form in the articular cartilage and the underlying subchondral bone, in his left knee. OD is caused by blood deprivation in the subchondral bone. This loss of blood flow causes the subchondral bone to die in a process called avascular necrosiss.

“I played through it my freshman season because we didn’t know what it was,” he said. “There was so much fluid in my knee I could move my patella from right to left like it was free and loose.”

Because Gladstone was one of the youngest students in his class (July 24, 1994) he could basically take a medical red-shirt year and take a year off from school without missing any eligibility after undergoing the knife.

“We as a family thought this would be an extreme burden on his school studies as well for us,” his father, Mitchel, said, “so he did not attend the 2009 school year.”

During that time he had three surgeries, which included the growing of his own cartilage over eight weeks in a lab in Boston and the 1 centimeter of bone removed from his tibia and inserted to fill the defect in the knee.

The downtime led to extreme atrophy in his calf and quad to the point where it took an additional six months on top of the 12 months to fully restore the size and shape.

He returned to Mountain Pointe for his sophomore year when he played on junior varsity before transferring to Valley Christian after his first semester of his junior year, which meant he had to sit out the baseball season last year.

“It was so hard to watch another season go by,” said Gladstone, who has a 3.81 GPA. “There were so many games where we lost a close one and I kept thinking I might have made the difference.”

He is this year as his on-base percentage of .697 (he reached base 54 times in his first 76 plate appearances with 36 hits, 14 walks, three hit by pitches and one error) is one of the best in the country, but it doesn’t stop there.

Gladstone is playing a terrific center field when he isn’t pitching. Through April 18, Gladstone was batting .621 (36 for 58) with 27 runs, 16 doubles, a home run and 34 RBIs.

“He is not only the best player on the team, that’s obvious, but he is also the hardest working,” Smith said. “That’s a great thing as coach when the best player on the team is the one putting in the extra work because it usually trickles down to everyone else on the team.”

That’s what happens when the game is taken away not once but twice. Gladstone isn’t letting a day go by without trying to better himself and it is leading to a tremendous offensive season.

“I am playing really confident right now and trying to make my final year a memorable one,” said Gladstone, who works with Houston Astros roving hitting instructor Ralph Dickenson. “I came from a bigger school and I try to play above (Division III) the level. I know when I don’t see strikes you can’t beat me.”

While Gladstone missed out most of his high school career, it looks as if he will get a chance to continue it at the next level as he has received interest from Cal State San Marcos, Dixie State and George Fox University.

“I am really blessed because my goal has always been to play college baseball,” he said. “There was a point I thought I’d never play the game again and thought it was over. When I was sitting in the doctor’s office and he said I’d be out for 18 months part of me died inside.

“I almost gave up playing, but we persevered and now I am starting to accomplish some of those things I thought weren’t possible anymore.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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