Tark's Take

Three Ole Miss baseball players who had Tommy John surgery in the past year return for the 2015-16 school year. They are Brady Feigl, who will be a redshirt freshman, Preston Tarkington, with two years of eligibility remaining, and Sean Johnson, who pitched in one game this past season and has two years left at Ole Miss. Today: Preston Tarkington

He made 19 appearances and had a 1.69 ERA during Ole Miss’ College World Series season in 2014. Preston Tarkington was all set to be one of the Rebels’ go-to guys in 2015.

Then came Tommy John surgery last fall.

“It was Sept. 16,” Tarkington said, without any hesitation. “It was right when we got back in the fall.”

It’s still painful, mentally if not physically, for the rising senior.

“It’s hard to go back and think about it now,” he said. “For me it was like a sense of panic. I was just hoping to really have a breakout second year here. Then to have that happen, it was hard for me to deal with.”

Those around him helped the Searcy, Ark., native and Crowder (Junior) College transfer..

“After talking to the (Ole Miss) coaching staff, they really calmed me down a lot and made it easier for me to deal with,” the right-handed pitcher teammates call ‘Tark’ said.

He was even concerned if he’d be wanted anymore in the program before he received assurances about that.

“I was worried Coach (Mike Bianco) might tell me there wasn’t a spot for me here,” he said. “That’s just not the kind of guy he is. He’s not going to do that. He treats his players better than that.”

Tarkington is looking forward to taking the mound for a Bianco-coached Rebel team in 2016. He’s getting back to full strength.

“That’s something I really have enjoyed with my time here, and that’s playing for him,” Tarkington said. “He’s a real people person as well as a good coach on the field.”

Tarkington said the entire program has worked with him to come back better than ever and to be a part of the games in 2016.

“Absolutely,” Tarkington said.

Last fall as he rehabbed, it was all about returning to the mound for Ole Miss.

“There were a few hiccups in there in the middle,” he said of his recovery the past nine months. “But the last three or four pens, I felt like I came on pretty strong. Our trainer, Josh Porter, does a good job and pushes us to get back. He handled things great for me.”

Physically, Tarkington said he moved along well during the rehab. Mentally, that could be another story.

“It’s probably 90 percent mental,” he said. “I’d say it wears on you mentally more than physically. It fluctuates up and down. You just have to stay true to your approach, stay with what got you to be who you were in the first place, and move on from there.”

Tarkington, who has just one year of eligibility left, said he’s ready to pitch right now – if that were indeed the case.

“I would say if there was a game tomorrow, I would be able to pitch in it,” he said. “Fortunately we don’t have to worry about that right now. I’m just preparing for the fall and getting ready for that. It should be a fun fall. I’m excited about it.”

Tarkington is hoping – and he truly believes – that 2016 will be the year for him that 2015 should have been.

“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “Being my last year here, I’m just excited to come out and compete with these guys. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and it’s been time very well spent for me.”

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