The next time Josh Conway picks up a baseball, he will have a new ligament in his right elbow.
Conway, a former Smithsburg High School star and a junior at Coastal Carolina University, will have have Tommy John surgery Tuesday in Pensacola, Fla., to repair a completely torn ligament.
It will be performed by noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews, the guru of Tommy John surgeries for baseball pitchers.
“It’s a little bump along the road,” said Conway. “It is what it is right now and I have to deal with it. I’ve always worked hard and I’ll keep working hard to come back.”
Conway was drafted in 2009 by the Atlanta Braves in the 42nd round, but elected to continue his career in college at Coastal Carolina. That meant he would not be eligible for the draft again until he was a junior.
With the 2012 draft around the corner on June 4-6, Conway was high on the radar to continue achieving his goal of becoming a major league pitcher. Named a preseason All-American, he was 4-1 with a 2.14 earned run average and 50 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings this season.
Conway said the evaluation from doctors found a complete tear of the ulnar ligament in his throwing elbow.
In the modern era of medicine, it is commonplace for Tommy John surgery on pitchers to have a positive result on their throwing arm. It’s the same surgery Washington’s Stephen Strasburg underwent and he’s back better than ever with the Nationals. With the success rate, it’s an easy choice.
“I feel good about the surgery,” said Conway. “Going in now will help out in the long run. I’ll get it back, work the right way and the best way. I’ll be positive through the rehab process.”
Conway said it’s likely he’ll not touch a baseball for up to four months before he begins throwing again.
He was throwing well, having had solid a outing against VMI. On April 26 against Liberty University Conway pitched four innings before the soreness set it, allowing three runs in his shortened outing. The following day an MRI was done and revealed the tear.
“I had some discomfort in the Radford series (in late April), took the next weekend off to be safe, and came back throwing hard as ever and had a good outing,” said Conway.
Conway needs to look no further than late Williamsport graduate Nick Adenhart to draw parallels to recovery and making the majors. Conway was not a ballyhooed, can’t-miss prep star like Adenhart, but his potential blossomed rapidly and he has been developing quickly, reaching into the low- to mid-90s with his fastball.
Adenhart’s injury came in his final high school pitching start and required the Tommy John surgery, but he was still drafted in the 14th round by the Los Angeles Angels in 2004. He eventually made his MLB debut in 2008.
“It helps knowing someone from your hometown area that went through the surgery overcame it,” said Conway.
Conway will be attentive to the phones during the draft. The surgery does not knock him off the draft board.
“My aspirations have not changed,” said Conway. “My goal is still to become a major league pitcher.”
Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore told MyrtleBeachOnline.com that “(Josh) was one of the best prospects and one of the finest young men that’s played and worked in this program. As a team we have to pull up our boot straps (with Josh gone).”