Long Road Back

Casey Mulholland has been a name Ole Miss fans have heard for three years. And he still has yet to pitch in a game for the Rebels.

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Hopefully for Mulholland and for Ole Miss, that day is coming soon. It's been a long road back.

He committed to Ole Miss in 2009 and signed with the Rebels that November. But Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2010 meant he had to make a decision. He decided to stay home in Florida for another year to rehab his repaired arm.

He arrived in Oxford in the summer of 2011 and went through the most recent fall ball session. He was still under the radar as far as any real success.

Then came last weekend and his first outing on the mound in the preseason. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco was pleased with what he saw from the 6-foot-4, 180-pound right-hander.

"Casey Mulholland pitched the best since he's been here," Bianco said.

Mulholland pitched two innings with no runs, one hit, one strikeout, and no walks.

He had been highly recruited out of The Pendleton School at IMG Academies in Florida. You don't attend one of those schools if you don't plan on being a pro someday. Those are the best training grounds for future stars of sports.

Mulholland talked to a Scout.com reporter for a story two years ago, just prior to his surgery. It was a pre-draft story, obviously, and appeared in PinstripesPlus.com, a Scout website for the New York Yankees. Here's what Mulholland had to say about attending IMG.

"I've been at IMG and Pendleton for about eight years total going to camps and stuff. The biggest difference I see between IMG Academies and a regular school is that IMG is not your normal high school – it's more of a college atmosphere. Your class schedule, your baseball schedule, the way you conduct yourself, it teaches you to regiment yourself day in and day out. You work on an A day, B day schedule like colleges, waking up early one day, going to class later the next day. The coaches are on you, they look into your academics, they check if you're in class on time, what your grades are like, which is somewhat like other schools do, but the level of training and the hours that you put in daily are just second to none. You can't really get that experience, at least from what I've seen, anywhere else. For me IMG has just been a huge step for me, to take myself to the next level."

Here's what Mulholland had to say in the same story about his decision to attend Ole Miss.

Casey Mulholland
Bruce Newman

"We visited a lot of schools, I'm not sure how many in all, but we spent many a weekend out on visits in order to be able to make an educated decision. I showed up to Ole Miss and just fell in love with the place. The story I like to tell is that I showed up on a Saturday for the Georgia series last year when Georgia was ranked number one, and everyone at the stadium was electrified, ready to go, and excited to watch the game. In the midst of all this I sat down and people were coming up to me and asking me who I was, and you could tell they all had a great camaraderie and knew each other well. When I came back on Sunday those same people that had seen me came back and said "Hey, Casey! How are you? Did you call your mom last night?" and so on, so it showed me that they really do care, and the fanbase is second to none. At that point I fell in love and I knew that was the place."

Then came some hardships and a path he could not have foreseen. The Tommy John surgery soon followed, and the months ahead would prove to be challenging.

Mulholland, whose father, Mike, played football at Southeastern Louisiana, and mother, Leta, ran cross country at Alabama, said he is happy and hopeful these days.

"I felt great," he said of last weekend's performance. "I worked real hard in the offseason, and I felt great coming back out here and competing. Definitely it's been a progress from the fall. I didn't pitch the way I wanted to this fall. Getting back out here I had a new mindset, and I got out there and did the things I wanted to."

Mulholland said he's feeling like his old self again.

"It felt awesome," he said. "My arm's felt great since the beginning of the fall. I've had no issues, and it's definitely 100 percent healthy."

Mulholland said the "mindset" was something he had to deal with.

"A little bit of confidence. Just getting back and pitching against SEC-level hitters," he said. "I haven't played in a year and a half. Going from high school baseball to the SEC is hard for most people. Going from not playing in a year and a half to the SEC was real tough for me. I just had to get back out here and prove to myself I belong out here and have the confidence to pitch against these hitters."

Ole Miss assistant coach Carl Lafferty said what he's seeing out of Mulholland now reminds him of what he saw when he recruited him.

"The big thing for Casey is he's really getting healthy," Lafferty said. "The rehab and sticking with the protocol and obviously working with our trainer, Tony Barnett, and feeling like himself again. When he pitched last weekend, he looked like the kid that I saw in Florida when we were recruiting him. When you have Tommy John, so much about it is getting the arm strength back and feeling healthy. But it's also about as a pitcher finding your rhythm and being able to execute pitches. And I think you're really seeing who Casey is."

Mulholland said it truly is day to day for him as he goes about improving his pitching.

"Right now I'm just trying to make the travel squad and prove to the coaches I belong here," he said. "It's an everyday thing. Each single day I try to get out there and get better in some regard and some aspect of my game. Right now I'm just focusing on pitching now. I have one thing to focus on and one thing to do. It's baby steps, but I'm definitely getting to the end goal. I just stay focused on what I have to do."

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