The Road Back

Casey Mulholland tweets often about Oxford and Ole Miss. He's had plenty of time to do that. The 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher was headed to Ole Miss as a part of this year's incoming class. But Tommy John surgery last March 31 sidelined those plans.

But his plans never changed. He signed with the Rebels last November. This week he spent a couple of days watching the Rebels play baseball against Memphis and Arkansas State. That was after he visited with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham early in the week and got an excellent report on his progress.

"Feels great," Mulholland said of his visit to Oxford and Ole Miss. "It's the first time I've been back up here since the surgery, so it was good to be here and taking in the sights and enjoying my time here."

He was here with his dad, and the two of them got to know Ole Miss and Oxford a little better. And while all that was a nice part of the trip, getting a good report concerning his arm was even better.

"It was basically just a checkup and a followup after my last visit," Mulholland said. "He told me everything looked great and that I was well on my way. The course we've taken so far was the proper course."

Mulholland continues to rehab and work toward getting back to top form as he once was.

"I'm at 75 percent now," he said. "I'm throwing off the mound. Hopefully in the next month I'll be back to 100 percent."

Mulholland said his plans for the summer before he arrives at Ole Miss are undecided.

"That's something I was up here for this week, to talk to the coaches a little bit about and see," he said. "I'll sit down with my family and make a decision on what it is my plans will be."

Mulholland was likely to be the centerpiece of another ranked class the Rebel coaches brought in for this season. Now he will arrive a year later but with the same passion and excitement, and perhaps even more, than he had when he first decided on Ole Miss back in 2009.

Mulholland took in two Ole Miss games this week
"I've taken everything in stride," he said. "Some people could look at it as a negative thing. Really it's been a complete positive thing for me. I've been able to revamp myself as a pitcher and as an outfielder. I've told everybody from the beginning that this wasn't an opportunity to become the player I was before but to become a better player.

"I can tell you I'm bigger, I'm stronger, I'm faster. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the field and seeing how it all carries over on the playing field. I've really taken the time to master some things I hadn't before as far as baseball is concerned."

Mulholland's resume' before his surgery a year ago was impressive. His services were coveted by many. Likely to have been a high draft pick last June, the surgery and rehab prevented that from happening. He had chosen Ole Miss from a long list of schools, including LSU, Florida, Miami, Clemson, and North Carolina.

He attended The Pendleton School at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. Any player who attends those schools is serious about his future in his respective sport. Former Ole Miss tennis star Devin Britton, who won the NCAA Singles Championship as a freshman with the Rebels, attended IMG.

Mulholland was ranked in 2009 as one of the nation's Top 100 players by both Perfect Game and Baseball America. He posted a 6-0 record with a 1.39 ERA in 2009 as he struck out 73 batters and walked only 10 in his 40.2 innings of work. He also hit well, batting .355 with five doubles, three triples and eight RBI as he helped his high school to a 29-1 record and final ranking of seventh nationally. He was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America game that summer.

This year he is taking classes part-time at a junior college in Bradenton, Fla. He has focused almost entirely on his rehab.

"I've just taken each day and really put my best foot forward to make sure I come back full health," he said "I've pretty much dedicated my days to waking up and working out and eating properly, everything I need to do to make myself a complete athlete."

And he never wavered on Ole Miss.

"From the moment I set foot on campus here (two years ago), I knew this was my home away from home and the place I wanted to be," he said. "The people here treated me so well. The fans have been unreal. There's no doubt in my mind this is where I wanted to be the whole time."

There is a chance he could be drafted fairly high this June, despite the fact that his recovery and rehab will just be at its end, and he won't have had the chance to really compete in a game situation that much. So he will wait and see on that, and it isn't his No. 1 priority at this point.

"I don't know what will come of that," he said. "The first and foremost thing is to get healthy. I want to get back in the swing of things and get back on a baseball field. I haven't been in a game yet. I'll run across that bridge when I get there. My first and foremost goal is to get healthy."

Because while watching the Rebels play this week was enjoyable, actually playing at Ole Miss is his dream.

"That will come with time and patience," he said.

Both of which Casey Mulholland has had plenty of the past year.

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