Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Quintet Helps Gators Re-Arm for Season Healthy UF Hosts Hurricanes Today

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Quintet Helps Gators Re-Arm for Season Healthy UF Hosts Hurricanes Today

Article excerpt

GAINESVILLE -- At first it was a joke, conceived while the five University of Florida baseball players were toiling in the weight room rehabbing their surgically repaired elbows.

Let's design a shirt just for us, they said. Put a picture of a muscular arm -- including a scar across the elbow -- on the front, and a picture of UF athletic trainer Duke Werner on the back. It'll be a reminder of what we've gone through -- the Tommy John surgeries, the long, arduous rehab.

But then it went beyond a joke. The players -- first baseman Ryan Shealy and pitchers Keith Brice, Kevin Coleman, Alex Hart and Jimmy Ramshaw -- had the shirts made and wore them to practice one day last fall.

It broke up UF coach Andy Lopez. He loved it, although he remembers feeling much differently last year when he watched those five players go down with elbow problems. Eventually, each underwent the surgery that was first performed on major league pitcher Tommy John: To repair a torn ligament in John's elbow, a tendon threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below his elbow.

"Unbelievable," Lopez said about having five players undergo that procedure at various times last year. "I've never had a Tommy John surgery [done on a player] in my 24 years as a coach prior to that. And then five in one year? We were in a state of shock. We'd get to the field every day and somebody would reach for their arm or elbow and we'd be thinking, 'I hope this isn't another one.'

"It was just mind-boggling."

The five, though, have nearly completed their year-long rehabilitation and are ready to play again. Shealy, who suffered his injury during pregame infield practice and underwent surgery on March 31, is scheduled to DH for the 13th-ranked Gators in this weekend's series with the ninth-ranked Miami Hurricanes. Lopez said he hopes to get the other four a couple of innings this weekend, provided the weather isn't too cold.

Brice is hoping for warm weather more than the other pitchers because he hasn't played in more than a year. He hurt his elbow in May of '99, had arthroscopic surgery, then blew out the ligament in his elbow during the 2000 preseason and had Tommy John surgery Feb. 7.

"The waiting has been the toughest part," said Brice, who is expected to be the Gators' closer. "It's been so long since I've been in a game. I just want to get back in and play."

Coleman had his surgery in April, Hart March 15, Ramshaw March 7 and Shealy April 3. The five players rehabbed together, which they all said was great for morale.

"I was the last guy to get it [the surgery], so it was great to have those four guys who had already gone through the highs and lows right there," Coleman said. "If I was feeling pain they were there to say they went through the same thing at the same time and it wasn't anything I should worry about. …

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