Hinson recovered from surgery, ready to lead Vikings

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

VIDALIA, La. &045; If only recovery from every surgery would be this good.

When Vidalia right-hander Brett Hinson went under the knife right when everyone broke for the summer, everyone with the baseball program may have cringed. The team’s No. 1 pitcher-to-be would have to overcome surgery for a team that didn’t know who its No. 2, 3, 4 or so on would be.

That’s where football came in.

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Hinson had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in June, went through therapy and rehab and got out in the fall for football as the team’s quarterback. Now he’s ready to start throwing for the Vikings this spring without a drop of self-doubt you’d normally find in someone coming off surgery.

Hinson could get the nod today as the Vikings meet Cathedral at 6:30 p.m. at Chester Willis Field in the Cellular South Classic.

&uot;I think I was out for about six weeks, and I started doing rehab and physical therapy,&uot; Hinson said. &uot;I played football, and I think that helped out a lot getting it back in shape. One day it was hurting me in football, and I stopped. The next day I came out, and everything was fine. I was able to throw it 25 or 30 yards. I don’t know what it was, but everything was fine.&uot;

But that’s the case for someone who was told by the doctor the injury wasn’t a result of pitching. The best he can tell, Hinson hurt it either in football or lifting weights and aggravated it during pitching in a game in late March at the Vidalia Invitational.

He came back to pitch at the first of May in the playoffs, but now he’s trying to get back in the rhythm as the team’s only pitcher with significant experience this spring.

&uot;We’re looking for him to have an injury-free, sick-free season,&uot; Vidalia head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said. &uot;His freshman year he had mono. His sophomore year he had the flu, and as a junior he had a sore arm. He’s one of those kids who can be special. We’re really going to rely on him a bunch.

&uot;He had the surgery this summer and turned around and played quarterback. A sore arm can get in your head, but he’s not showing any signs of that. He’s a pretty tough kid.&uot;

The road back hasn’t been all that hard, and Hinson said his doctor admitted to him the surgery wasn’t absolutely required but could prevent further pain down the line. But he used the football season to bring the strength back in his arm and has had limited opportunity to do in so far on the diamond.

The bad weather earlier this month kept the team indoors. He had his first taste of live action last week at a jamboree at West Feliciana and threw 3 2/3 innings Monday in the season-opener against Pineville while getting his first three outs of the game on strikeouts.

&uot;For the second time pitching this year, I did pretty well,&uot; Hinson said. &uot;I’d get two strikes on them and couldn’t put them away or they’d ground out. When we played West Feliciana, I felt like I did pretty well. But I felt like I didn’t have much control and was getting wild. Hopefully I’ll get a whole lot better.&uot;

Hinson’s debut against Pineville was marred by a poor night defensively behind him, although he pitched well enough to keep Vidalia in the game. It was sort of the same fate as when he returned in the playoff game against Sacred Heart last year when he pitched well enough to win that one, too.

&uot;He’s not back to where we want him yet, but I can tell the game from (Monday) and Friday in the jamboree &045; I saw improvement,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;He had a little more pop and was a little more confident. We look for him to get a little better every time out.&uot;

The road to improvement may have to be a quick one for Hinson, who will inherit the No. 1 starter label this season following Mac Ware’s graduation. He’s having to adjust to a new catcher in Cameron Ainsworth following Chris William’s graduation, but the biggest question mark now for the Vikings is who’ll pitch behind him.

Eight others will fill out the staff, including Reid Simpson, left-hander Tony Godbold and Lance Moore. And there’s the defensive kinks to work out, too.

&uot;(Hinson) better be ready (to be No. 1) &045; he doesn’t have much of a choice,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;Brett is not a big question mark right now. If he’s a big worry we have, we don’t have any worries. I said right when the season started we would have to play our way into shape and everything would have to come around during the season. We’re way behind, but of course, everybody is, too.&uot;

But Hinson wants to make the best of his opportunity this season as the top starter. The fastball got up into the mid-80s in the jamboree and against Pineville, and he’s trying to add a changeup into his arsenal to go with the heater and curveball.

&uot;It seems I pitch a whole lot better in tough games or against a team people think we shouldn’t beat,&uot; Hinson said. &uot;I’ll have to step up a whole lot more. I know I’ll have to pitch more games than I did last year. (Monday) after pitching five innings I was sort of exhausted. I’ve got to work harder than I have been, get in shape and step up.&uot;