Hobdy Went Out Early

Each day when the Dodgers are playing in the Instructional League on Field One at Dodgertown, he'll usually come out, lean on the fence behind the L.A. bench and talk to some of the players. All the while his right shoulder is wrapped, containing a pack of ice that looks large enough to sink the Titanic.

"He" is Chris Hobdy, who initial professional season never really got started and ended abruptly due to shoulder problems. He's since had it scoped so now he's in rehab, hence the ice, a daily part of his routine. He wears a rather melancholy look on his face a great deal of the time which is perfectly understandable since this can hardly be what he (or anyone else, for that matter) envisioned.

Hobdy is a 6-4, 210-pound pitcher who threw the ball in the low 90's while in high school in Lubbock, Texas, one of bright promise whose abilities caused the Dodgers to pick him in the seventh round this past June.

Lubbock had a good team, one that advanced far into the Texas playoffs, chiefly on his right arm. They reached the state finals where they lost but he wasn't pitching that night for they had needed him to get them there so he had pitched the semifinal -- and won-the day before.

There had been a lot of innings and that seems to be the culprit if anything can be blamed for the injury. Not that he felt there was anything wrong at the time. He had a scholarship offer from Texas Tech tucked away; however, he found the Dodger 's offer too good to turn down, saying, "I don't think I would gain anything by pitching in college. Who knows what could happen to me in those three years?"

There's more than a little irony in that for it seemed to have already happen adversely by the time he threw his first professional pitch for the Gulf Coast Dodgers. "I started to hurt but I kept at it until it hurt too much to continue," he says now. "Probably wasn't the smartest thing to do."

Physical therapists worked on the shoulder diligently for weeks until Hobdy seemed ready to try again. "I wanted to show them I was all right before the season ended so I could go home instead of staying here for rehab. But I just wasn't ready so I couldn't go on."

The result of trying to fight through all the pain was an 0-1 record with a inflationary 20.25 ERA. That, of course, reflects the seriousness of the injury, not Chris' true ability.

For the potential is still there. He's got an outstanding pitcher's frame with long arms and a nice, easy delivery when he's right. That time, however, won't come until next spring.

In the meantime, he'll have to remain in Dodgertown and work to getting back his form. He won't be 19 until December so he's very young and should be able to put all this behind him and get back to the form that all feel he's capable of.

They say every pitcher will suffer some kind of physical setback in the course of his career. Hobdy's had his early. That may be small consolation but it's what he clings to these days. That and the hope that the best is surely still to come.