Grove City grads persevere through injuries
A pair of Grove City High School graduates haven't let one of the scariest medical procedures in baseball stop them.
The careers of Joe Ford and Jared Hill are going strong despite the fact that both underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction -- better known as Tommy John surgery -- during their formative prep years, and they intersected again last month during a game in the wood-bat Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
But more about that later.
Hill, who will be a redshirt junior next spring at West Virginia University, has endured reconstructive elbow surgery on his pitching arm twice, in fact. He missed his entire junior season with Grove City after the first surgery, returning to play first base and becoming a top run producer as a senior in 2009.
The following spring, Hill made a successful debut with WVU by logging eight appearances as a true freshman, earning both his first college victory and save. He missed all of the 2011 season, however, after going under the knife a second time.
Hill returned to the mound again this past spring, making four appearances for the Mountaineers with no decisions and a 3.68 ERA in 7 1/3 innings. He had six strikeouts and opponents batted just .185 against him.
Those numbers seem modest, sure, but they're a positive step considering what his beleaguered right arm has been through.
"It feels good as new now," Hill said. "We have a new coach (Randy Mazey) coming in, too, so next year will be like a fresh start for me."
Ford, meanwhile, also will enjoy a fresh start next spring after he recently signing with Wright State. A middle infielder, he graduated from Grove City in 2010 and spent the past two seasons at Sinclair Community College in Dayton. This past spring, he batted .335 and led the team in hits (62) and runs (55) in 58 games. He also had 10 doubles, 22 RBI and eight stolen bases.
Like Hill, Ford was considered a promising pitcher in his youth. The constant wear and tear on his right arm prevented him from realizing that potential, however, and he had Tommy John surgery as a junior at Grove City before reinventing himself as a shortstop his senior season with the Greyhounds.
"He never pitched for us," Grove City coach Ryan Alexander said. "But they're talking about playing him right away at second base (at Wright State), and he's fired up about the chance to do it. He just never got down and adapted."
Ford is playing this summer for the Dayton Docs, a first-year team in the Major League Baseball-sponsored Great Lakes league. Hill is pitching for the Licking County Settlers, who won the first meeting between the teams, 8-7 on June 12.
Ford got the best of a one-on-one matchup against his former teammate, however, hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning.
"Next time, I'll just have to make a better pitch," Hill said. "But I'd rather him do it than anybody else."