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Adenhart's dream takes a detour

May 23, 2004|By BOB PARASILITI

WILLIAMSPORT

Stark reality has put the dreams of Williamsport High School pitcher Nick Adenhart on hold.

Adenhart, projected to be a top-10 selection in the amateur baseball draft 15 days from now, will undergo reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, effectively shelving his major league aspirations for at least three years.

Adenhart and his stepfather, Duane Gigeous, confirmed the need for surgery Saturday, ending weeklong speculation on the pitcher's condition after he left the mound three batters into the first inning of his May 11 start at South Hagerstown.

"I really never had any pain in the arm before," Adenhart said. "This was the first discomfort I ever had to pitch through. I threw a curve and heard a 'pop.' I knew I had more damage."

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Adenhart was notified Wednesday that he would need surgery after being examined by Dr. James Andrews on Monday in Birmingham, Ala. Andrews is one of the pioneers of "Tommy John" surgery, which has revolutionized elbow surgery and salvaged many Major League pitching careers.

"It's a partial tear," Gigeous said. "That translates to 'Tommy John' surgery. Dr. Andrews invented the surgery. We have been trying to get all our ducks in a row. There is no good reason why Nick won't be pitching again within a year. He will probably be throwing the ball again in six months after the surgery."

Adenhart is scheduled to have the surgery shortly after he graduates from Williamsport next month.

It will be performed by Andrews at the Alabama Sports Medicine Clinic. The procedure lasts an hour, according to Gigeous, and then Adenhart will receive rehabilitation directions from Andrews to start on the road to pitching again.

Until then, Adenhart will continue to play for Williamsport in its quest for the Maryland Class 1A title, but only as a designated hitter. He batted in games against Smithsburg on Thursday and Boonsboro on Friday.

He has been told not to throw at all, although he attempted to play shortstop after returning from Alabama. Williamsport will play in the state semifinals on Tuesday at McCurdy Field in Frederick, Md.

The injury puts an end to the circuslike atmosphere at Williamsport, where as many as 30 Major League scouts attended every game Adenhart pitched, weighing his talents for the draft. He was projected to be selected as high as second overall, a selection that usually is rewarded with a multimillion-dollar signing bonus by the prospective Major League team.

Adenhart was rated as one of the top two high school pitchers in the country by Baseball America. He won his second consecutive Gatorade Player of the Year award in Maryland this week.

The surgery will change Adenhart's choices and plot the course for his immediate future. He now will attend the University of North Carolina on a baseball scholarship and will complete his rehabilitation as a redshirt freshman. After his recovery, Adenhart will have the opportunity to pitch for the Tar Heels, and in three years, again will be eligible to be drafted.

"The percentages are high for a recovery rate on the surgery," Adenhart said. "This will be a recovery with a purpose, since I will be pitching for a college team and getting my education."

The surgery is being considered more of an inconvenience than a disaster.

"To call this a tragedy, it's not," Gigeous said. "That should be saved for the kids who are getting killed overseas. It's an unfortunate circumstance that just occurred. Nick had his head in the clouds and his feet on the ground. Now, he will get the chance to go to college and he will still get to shoot for his dream - to still play in the Major Leagues."

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