Michael Park getting healthy, ready for UM

It's been a long year for Michael Park. He'll be glad when the summer is over, too. By then he should be 100 percent again. And he will be at Ole Miss.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed pitcher from Memphis University School will pitch for Ole Miss beginning this school year. But since football season last year, he's been battling.

Park had back pain for a while and it wasn‘t until this spring that he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his L5 vetebra in his lower back. He's worn a brace since then and has had to "take it easy," he said. For the competitive Park, that's been one tough assignment.

"It's been one of the hardest things I've ever done," he said of watching his team play this spring and not being able to play himself. "You realize how lucky you are to be healthy and appreciate it that much more."

Park, the younger brother of Ole Miss punter Rob Park, was also the quarterback for MUS. He began to have some pain back during football season.

"I thought it was just a muscle strain and I'd battle through it," he said. "I tried to fight through it. I sat out for two weeks (early this year) and pitched in the preseason and in five or six games. But all of a sudden in a game against White Station I just had a real bad pain. I still pitched through it and threw like 90 pitches that day."

But the diagnosis came down not long after that. Stress fracture. His season was over.

But the good news was not his career. That would be just fine, but it would take some time.

Park would have been playing with the Dulin's Dodgers team this summer, which is by most accounts the premier summer-league team in the Memphis area. He played with them before. But this summer he's watching, and rehabbing, and getting ready to come to Ole Miss in August.

"I go back to the doctor in mid-July, and I'll know more then," he said. "I believe I'll be ready to work out by the end of July."

Park's problem appears to be one of those growing pains situations. His body continued to grow and he continued to play and pitch and workout. Not that unusual for a kid still maturing. But a specialist in St. Louis said for a pitcher it is more rare to have this particular situation occur.

"He said that maybe a catcher or maybe a lineman in football, but not many pitchers," said Park, who has worn the brace part of the time lately, especially when doing some light workouts. "It should be one of those things I grow out of if I'll just give it time to heal."

Park, a lifelong Ole Miss fan who has attended lots of games here, had some quality numbers in high school prior to his senior year when he couldn't pitch. As a junior he was 10-1 with a 1.5 ERA. As a sophomore he was 8-1 with a 1.16 ERA. He's mainly a fast ball pitcher and throws it 88-91 mph.

"I've hit 92 or 93 once in a while," he said.

Of course that's been a while now since he hasn't really thrown hard in a long time. He also has some other pitches in his arsenal.

"I've got a curve ball, a slider, and a changeup," he said. "I need to work to develop my changeup even more and also develop and improve my arm strength."

One thing he didn't have to improve was his connection with Ole Miss. It's always been there.

"I committed after my junior year," he said. "I had some offers from Memphis, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and others, but I committed so early I didn't hear much from other schools.

"It didn't matter, because I knew where I wanted to go. I love the high expectations there. I love the fans. I love that they care so much about baseball and that it's so intense."

For Michael Park, it's been an intense few months, and he'll be glad to get healthy and settled in at Ole Miss.

"I am supposed to room with Drew Pomeranz," he said of the Collierville High pitcher who also has strong Ole Miss ties and was drafted by the Rangers in the 12th round. "I know a lot of the players. I know Nathan Baker. I know Jordan Henry. Zach Rutland (redshirt catcher from MUS) is one of my good friends. I'm ready to get healthy and get down there."

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