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Faces on the Field: Nick Adenhart

Cedar Rapids hurler battles back from surgery
May 23, 2006
Statistics don't lie. Sometimes they just don't tell the whole truth.

Don't just look at the numbers when Nick Adenhart is on the mound for the Cedar Rapids Kernels of the Midwest League.

Sure, the kid can pitch, but everyone already knew that. What isn't visible is how much heart he has.

In nine starts, the right-hander is 7-0 with a 1.56 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 12 walks in 57 2/3 innings. However, the lofty statistics only tell half the story.

Adenhart was ranked as the No. 1 high school hurler his senior season coming out of Williamsport, Md., but that changed on May 11, 2004. After only one inning of work that day, Adenhart left with discomfort in his elbow.

"Tommy John" surgery followed, and Adenhart immediately went from a potential top pick to a big gamble. The Los Angeles Angels decided to roll the dice, drafting him in the 14th round in 2004 despite rumblings that Adenhart might follow through on a scholarship to North Carolina following surgery.

"From the beginning I had a good relationship with the organization," Adenhart said. "They put a good offer on the table, which was something that was hard to turn down."

College life wasn't completely lost, however, as the organization let Adenhart take classes at Arizona State while rehabbing in preparation for the 2006 season. He experienced the best of both worlds as a Sun Devil, gearing up for the pros while enjoying life as a college student.

"I got to do a lot of learning at Arizona State, and I got to rework myself mechanically," Adenhart said. "I even went to watch a couple baseball games and football games."

After experiencing what college had to offer, Adenhart didn't regret his decision to pitch professionally.

"I made a good decision to sign with the Angels," he said. "There were no setbacks during rehab. It's great to know you're back where you were."

It wasn't easy to get back as Adenhart had to put his confidence, and his future, on the line after surgery. Rehab was like learning the game all over again, which wasn't all bad because it gave him a chance to correct things he had tried to fix early in his career, but never quite did.

The process was slow, but some things came out even better than the original. "You start from 45 feet, then work back to the mound," Adenhart said. "It's like starting to walk all over again. I'm really square on my front side now, and my command is better than it was."

Full recovery is a seemingly never-ending process. "You have to keep up with most of the exercises, rehabbing, stay healthy," he said. "I'm really concentrating on that and taking care of my arm and my body."

Kernels pitching coach Kernan Ronan has worked with Adenhart on his development and mechanics, and is happy with his progress. He helps Adenhart keep track of his health during the rehabilitation.

"His rhythm is excellent," Ronan said. "We just have to monitor that he does his exercises and maintains it, and he'll be OK."

It seems to have all paid off, and things are coming together well. Adenhart's favorite feeling, though, is not feeling any pain.

"My arm feels great," Adenhart said. "That was my main goal coming into the season. That, and to not miss a start."

He hasn't, and the Kernels couldn't be happier. Ronan said Adenhart has impressed him up to this point, especially given that there weren't many expectations after the reconstructive procedure.

"I knew he could pitch," Ronan said. "He has great stuff, and quality to above-average pitches, and he's done what he's capable of doing at this level, without a doubt."

The Kernels benefit every time Adenhart's confidence rises, and, coincidentally, his confidence seems to rise every time he pitches for the Kernels.

"You know when you throw him out there every fifth day that he has a chance to win," Ronan said. "He brings a lot of confidence to the team on that given day."

As much as Cedar Rapids would love to get used to that consistency, Ronan knows what happens when a pitcher shows this much promise. They don't stick around for too long.

"If he continues to do what he's doing, I would have no qualms about sending him to the next level to try and challenge him," Ronan said. "I think he'll go as far as he wants to go in this game."

Until that happens, though, Adenhart will stay in Iowa, not reminiscing about tough luck, but building on a promising career once again.

It's fitting that he's in a place that gives him a down-home feeling. A place that puts his mind at ease. It's a place that build his confidence. It's a place that leads to bigger places, and he's happy to be there.

"[Cedar Rapids] reminds me of my home town," Adenhart said. "I get along good with everyone on the team. I'm having a lot of fun."

Patrick Brown is an associate reporter for