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In early May of 2012, University of Texas freshman pitcher Parker French was rolling, but during a start at Missouri, his strong first season came to an abrupt end.
“On one pitch, just felt a pop and tried to throw another pitch and felt kind of a burning sensation,” French said. “ That's kind of when I knew it wasn't safe to go any longer, and something serious had happened."
French was right.
The right-handed starter left his start against the Tigers and didn't see the mound again for the rest of the season. It was a stress fracture in his right elbow and it required surgery.
Eventually, French would be named the Big 12's Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American by Louisville Slugger, but sitting on the bench for the final two months of the season made those accolades seem worthless.
"It was really tough, honestly, really just kind of sad and depressing,” French said. “The biggest thing was I couldn't help the team. We needed some Ws."
It was four months before French picked up a baseball, but his comeback began immediately after the procedure.
From rehab to lifting weights and more, the Dripping Springs native attacked it all full-speed, and his coaches took notice.
"His relentlessness to go in there, day in and day out, with the trainer, or with the strength coach,” Coach Skip Johnson said. “The way he approaches, the intensity he puts in his weight workouts, his running workouts, his bullpens—all those things. The intensity and the focus that he puts in really explain who he is."
With his elbow fully healed, French is now back on the hill for the Longhorns.
Just before the season began, Augie Garrido named him his Friday night starter, the ace of the staff.
"He provides leadership by the way he attacks the mitt fearlessly for all the other pitchers,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “He's just not afraid."
In the Horns season-opener, French delivered what Garrido called an "outstanding" performance, picking up the win with seven shutout innings.
For a guy who grew up dreaming of playing at The Disch, it was the perfect start to his comeback season.
"It was a dream,” French said. “Just really blessed that it came true, and just thankful for that opportunity, to be able to play this game, especially at the University of Texas."