DURHAM — State trooper Michael Potts, shot at close range during a routine traffic stop in February, he has recovered well enough to revisit the mound at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Monday for the first pitch of his former team’s home season.
Potts may or may not throw that ceremonial pitch. Potts wasn’t sure if his left hand, which hurled fastballs for the Bulls in 1992 and later in the major leagues, will have recovered sufficiently after the Feb. 18 incident. Potts suffered bullet wounds to his hand, head and right shoulder.
“To stand on that field again is going to be great,” Potts said, no matter whether he designates his youngest son to throw the pitch or tosses it himself.
“It’s going to be a special feeling standing out in that beautiful ballpark. I’m going to suck it in as much as I can, just for a few seconds.”
The retired ballplayer’s career as a law enforcement officer took a horrific turn when Potts pulled over a car over near the intersection of U.S. 70 and Cheek Road. The driver shot him three times in a desperate bid to avoid capture.
A Vermont man, Mikel Edward Brady, is charged with that shooting. Brady ducked a prison furlough program and was found in Durham the night Potts, 42, was shot at close range.
Potts made it back to his patrol car, where he radioed in the call for his own shooting. He was taken to Duke University Hospital, where he underwent surgeries and was visited by the governor.
“Physically, I’ve gotten a lot better,” Potts said Thursday. “I’ve still got a long way to go. The wounds are healing up nicely, and I’ve got a lot to work on mentally now.”
He is scheduled for a procedure Tuesday to remove a metal brace from his jaw. On April 29, he is scheduled for transplant surgery to replace a damaged nerve in his face. He still has trouble blinking his right eye. He is walking fine, he said.
A big jar of peanut butter is no problem, but opening small bottle tops with his injured left hand remains challenging. He said there was a good chance his son would throw the pitch for him.
“We don’t do first pitches very often, so when we do, it’s reserved for special occasions,” said Scott Carter, director of marketing for the Bulls. “It was pretty evident that we wanted to do something for Trooper Potts.”
The hard-throwing southpaw pitched his way to the majors in 1996 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen. It was an abbreviated career, as many are in pro ball, but the left hand that recently caught a bullet struck out 21 major league batters.
Mike Potts hung his career up after one season, in which he made 24 pitching appearances for the Brewers. When he tore a ligament while playing in the Mexican leagues, he decided he missed his children and wanted to watch them grow up.
“I missed my daughter take her first step. I decided at that time to take time for my family,” he said.
Pro ball taught him values he has carried with him, principally teamwork. He praised the quick work of the first responder to his emergency call, and the multiple agencies that assisted in his recovery.
“In law enforcement, everything is instrumental,” he said. “Team effort is huge in law enforcement. In my incident, you had three organizations that came together, and everyone knew their role. And my team won.”