- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

Nick Adenhart was considered perhaps the best high school pitcher in the country during his senior year at Williamsport High School in Washington County, Md.

He was a lock to be selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, and had a chance to be a very high pick and enjoy the multi-million dollar signing bonus that came with it. But near the end of the regular season, Adenhart threw one pitch that changed everything.

“It was just one pitch. There wasn’t any foretelling,” Adenhart said July 9 before the Futures Game in Pittsburgh. “It was just that one pitch and it happened.”

Adenhart blew out his right elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. The draft was just weeks away, and most major league organizations expected him to go to college. Six high school pitchers went in the first round, including three of Adenhart’s Futures Game teammates — Homer Bailey (Reds), Philip Hughes (Yankees) and Eric Hurley (Rangers).

Finally, in the 14th round with the 413th pick, the Angels pegged Adenhart with the hopes of signing him.

“Pre-draft, the Angels talked to me a good bit and I knew that if I was going to get drafted they were the only team that was going to draft me or really look to sign me,” Adenhart said, “I knew I wasn’t going to get 14th-round money. I knew it would be something higher.”

Adenhart mentioned Tim Stauffer’s situation from the year before as an example that was used during the negotiations. Stauffer was the No. 4 overall pick in 2003, but after taking a physical for the Padres, their doctors found a ligament tear in his elbow. Stauffer signed for $750,000 — nearly three times less than what the fifth overall pick received.

So Adenhart signed with the Angels for $710,000 (the 49th overall pick received a $700,000 signing bonus) and began his professional career rehabbing his elbow.

“Once they drafted me and put the first offer on the table, I knew I was probably going to sign,” Adenhart said. “Then it was just kind of how much more can we get out of them. It was a tough phone call to make to Coach [Mike] Fox at North Carolina, but no regrets and I think I made the right decision.”

Adenhart threw 50 innings last season as he started to make his comeback from the ligament replacement surgery. This year, now two years removed from the injury, Adenhart’s professional career has taken off.

He dominated at low Class A Cedar Rapids, sporting a 1.95 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 106 innings before earning a promotion to high Classs A Rancho Cucamonga. The 19-year old Adenhart began this season as the No. 6-rated prospect in one of the best minor league systems in baseball, and he should be even higher next year.

“I think I am either back [where I was in high school] or better,” Adenhart said. “I think getting hurt gave me a chance to mechanically refine a little bit, get back to the basics. I got to sit back and watch the difference between the amateur and professional level.”

If Adenhart hadn’t signed, he would either be a redshirt freshman or sophomore for North Carolina. The Tar Heels came within one victory of winning the College World Series this season. They boasted one of the best starting rotations in recent years with 2006 first-round picks Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard.

Now imagine adding Adenhart, who would have been one of the best second-year hurlers and certain to enter next season as a potential first-round pick in the 2007 draft. It might have been the best rotation in college baseball history.

“I thought about that, maybe if I had thrown myself in that mix, but who knows,” Adenhart said. “They had top recruiting classes the year before me and my year, so either way I was looking at a good situation.

“I met a lot of those guys when I took my visits. It was cool to see those guys succeed on TV. Either way, it would have been a good decision, but with the success I have had, it makes it a lot easier.”

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