All Aaron Perry could do was watch the last couple of months as his Hurricane baseball team went on a run that reached the Class AAA championship game.
Perry, a senior pitcher-infielder considered by many as the top player in West Virginia, suffered a stress fracture to his pitching elbow on April 18 and missed the rest of the season.
But the last few weeks have finally gotten pretty exciting for Perry, who could get his name called in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft that begins Monday in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Armed with a 95 mph fastball and a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, Perry was a consensus choice as the state’s most-draftable high school player before his injury, and that might not change despite his ongoing recovery.
“I’m still getting a lot of positive feedback from a lot of people,” Perry said. “I’ve been calling my advisor and talking to him every day leading up to the draft. I’m still getting a lot of love. We’ll see what happens. If it doesn’t work out [in the draft], Kentucky is still there, so I’m excited for either or.”
Perry, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Wednesday, did not have surgery on his arm, and the recovery process that was expected to take from six to eight weeks has gone smoothly.
“I’m getting my final X-rays to make sure everything’s healed up,” Perry said. “My arm feels great — better than it has before. The brace comes off in the next couple days and I start a rehab and throwing program real soon. I’m going to a doctor in Huntington and doing therapy down there.”
Perry is prepared to take the rehabilitation process slowly, and not try to do too much too soon.
“Once I start therapy, I’ll be monitored on everything I do,” he said. “I’ll try and take it slow through the summer into the off-season, working through and starting to gain velocity back up to where I was.
“I’m not thinking anything too crazy out of the get-go. I want to get my arm and my body back in shape.”
If Perry is drafted this week, then he and his family will look over their options before deciding on an immediate pro career or going off to Kentucky. Certainly, the signing bonus will play a significant role in their decision.
“It’s more about if it’s the right dollar figure,” Perry said. “If it’s worth it for my family to sign and be comfortable going with it. Hopefully, it’s the right fit and hopefully it works out. If not, there’s always the college route, and that’s good, too.”
If the draft situation doesn’t work out, Perry is set to start summer school classes in Lexington on June 22.
“I’ll get a feel for the campus and start being a Wildcat,” he said.
His final days as a Redskin were both exhilarating and disappointing, as Hurricane reached the title game for the second time in four years before losing to Kanawha Valley rival St. Albans 8-2 at Appalachian Power Park. Perry spent much of the last two months sitting in the dugout during games and keeping charts.
“It was real tough right when it happened,” Perry said, “because it’s hard to adapt to not being able to do what you love every single day, even working out and the other things you do. You can’t take anything for granted. Do everything like it’s your last time. I’m just thankful nothing major happened.
“Definitely, it was heart-breaking to lose in the state championship game. I wish I could have been out there with my brothers. Even when I got hurt, I wished I could go out there. It stinks being on the bench, but I have to be there and support them throughout everything, playing or not playing.”
Even sitting on the bench can be hazardous, Perry discovered.
During a regular-season home game, a foul ball struck the net behind home plate next to the Hurricane dugout, took a crazy bounce and plunked Perry right on the head, then glanced off the brace protecting his right arm. He was more bemused than injured, but did move farther inside the dugout the rest of the game.
Perry certainly appears further along in his recovery than fellow Kentucky recruit and potential draftee Ben Jordan, a 6-foot-9 pitcher-first baseman from West Carter, Ky., who had Tommy John surgery in May on his pitching elbow.
Jordan and Perry started against each other in a memorable March 24 duel in Hurricane, with West Carter winning 7-5. Each went five innings, Perry allowing three runs (none earned) and two hits with eight strikeouts, and Jordan permitting one run and three hits with nine K’s.
Oddly, both Jordan and Perry suffered their season-ending injuries within a week of each other, Jordan on April 12 against Raceland and Perry April 18 against Monsignor McClancy, New York, during a game in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Perry did get one bit of consolation from his senior season when he was selected as the Mountain State Athletic Conference player of the year despite playing only 14 games.
In that short span, he went 27 of 43 at the plate, becoming the Kanawha Valley’s leading hitter at .628, clouting two home runs and driving in 22. On the mound, he went 3-1 (with the lone loss to West Carter), fanning 34 in 21 innings with a sharp 0.33 ERA.