When Casey Coon lines up at shortstop next season for the University of Arkansas, it will be a testament to the perseverance and talent of the Las Vegas native.
Coon, a 5-11, 195-pound Community College of Southern Nevada junior college star who signed with the Diamond Razorbacks on Thursday, had to overcome injuries to his shoulder, and knee, a broken arm and a broken nose, a setback in rehab and an appendicitis - all during his senior year of high school and freshman year of junior college.
He did so well enough to have a banner sophomore juco campaign, being named the Region 18 Player of the Year after hitting .367 with 3 homers, 31 RBIs and 29 stoles bases this season for the Coyotes.
"We thought when he was a freshman that he probably would never play the game again, but he worked hard and was just an absolute stud for us this year," CCSN head coach Tim Chambers said. "He is a hard-nosed kid, who can really hit the ball, really run, is strong. He puts the ball in play, doesn't strike out hardly ever and the fans are going to love him down there in Arkansas."
Coon, recruited intensely by Razorback hitting coach Todd Butler, chose Arkansas over Georgia, Arizona State and Oregon State after also being offered by TCU, Rice and San Diego State.
"I got it down to those four and there were plenty of reasons why I ended up choosing Arkansas," Coon said. "I have a great personal relationship with Coach Butler, who just never gave up on me and stayed after me and they offered me a really good scholarship. There is the chance to play in the SEC – the best conference in the country. I really loved the place when I visited and I just really bonded with my teammates and I really believe we have a chance to go to Omaha next season for the College World Series."
Coon, who throws and bats right-handed was a standout prep player for Silverado High School in Las Vegas, but a arm injury forced him to miss the last three-fourths of his high school season.
"That was tough for him, but there is no way we would have got to have him at our junior college if he hadn't got hurt," Coon said. "He was a big-timer."
When asked about his injury history, Coon said "are you sure you want to go there? That's a long story.'"
Indeed. After he chose to follow the same path as his older brother Tyler to CCSN, injuries followed.
Following the broken arm, he had to have shoulder surgery the summer before he entered college.
He spent most of the year rehabbing only to believe himself ready – and then suffer a setback after just a few at-bats. Just when he was about ready to play again, here came the appendicitis.
He would end up with just 20 at-bats for his freshman season.
"It was basically just being a pinch hitter and I think I got to play one inning in the field," Coon said.
However, his sophomore season was something special.
Coon, hitting third in the order, laced 13 doubles and 3 triples to go along with his three homers and crossed the plate 36 times.
Coon was the best player in the Scenic West Athletic Conference, a league made up of 11 junior college programs from Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Idaho.
He was second in the league in hitting, slugging, hits (69 in 57 games) and stolen bases (29 in 36 attempts), tied for third in homers, fourth in RBIs, fifth in doubles and was hit by pitches on 12 different occasions.
"That freshman year was tough, but I thought I would give it one more shot before hanging it up," Coon said. "I'm sure glad I did. I came back 100 percent, had a great fall and then had a great spring. Everything just came together for me."
Well, except one thing. When he team was leading the league and had a 27-10 overall mark, the NJCAA ruled that the school had used two ineligible players up to that point and made them forfeit the 27 wins.
They would finish the season 13-45 officially, going 13-8 on the field to close out the year so actually going 40-18 between the lines.
He'll now get to follow his brother into D-1 collegiate baseball with Tyler Coon having started out at Texas, transferred to Tennessee and now will play at UNLV this season.
"He got injured and had Tommy John surgery and had to sit out the whole year so he came back here and went to school at UNLV to rehab around here," Coon said. "The NCAA only allows you to go to three schools so that is where he will play next season since he went to school there this year."
Coon is anxious to get his own major college career started.
"I'm pretty humbled by all this," Coon said. "I just hope to come in next season, hit it, catch and throw it and help out the team. I am going to hustle and hopefully steal a lot of bases, get a lot of hits and make the plays expected of me."
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