Bodenchuk excited to be back on the diamond

Matt Bodenchuk hustles through a drill during the first day of practice for the nationally-ranked Mesa State College baseball team. Bodenchuk, a senior, missed last season after he tore a ligament in his right throwing elbow.

Matt Bodenchuk is no longer nervous.

He is elated.

The Mesa Sate College senior practiced with his teammates for the first time in two years Tuesday as the Mavericks began practice for the 2009 season in Brownson Arena and on a patch of turf on Walker Field. The 2007 All-American shortstop tore a ligament in his right elbow shortly after the 2007 season in summer ball, requiring Tommy John surgery and nine months of rehabilitation.

“The nervousness, I got over all that in summer ball (last year),” Bodenchuk said. “Now, it’s pure excitement. We’ve got a team that can honestly do some serious damage.”

When asked the last time he recalls being this excited, Bodenchuk said, “Probably in Little League, but this is a different excitement. I’m not stressed about the little things with baseball, like making an error or striking out. I’m going to have fun and not worry about getting drafted.

It’s all about living in the moment and playing the game.”

Bodenchuk tore his elbow ligament trying to get his arm in shape to pitch in the summer league to possibly increase his draft potential.

“I was trying to get my arm in great shape,” Bodenchuk said. “I felt a slight twitch a couple of days before I blew it, but the pain wasn’t that bad. I didn’t think anything of it.

“When I did it, I w7as long tossing and probably should’ve taken the day off. It felt really weird.

It was like the dead-arm feeling pitchers talk about.”

Bodenchuk went through a lengthy rehabilitation and was able to play for a California Collegiate League team last summer. starting out as a designated hitter and first baseman.

Eventually, Bodenchuk’s arm strength increased to where he moved to right field and wrapped up the summer playing third base.. He made first team all-league at first base and second team all-league as a designated hitter.

“This fall, my arm was good enough to play shortstop,” Bodenchuk said. “I played a little third and a few innings at first. There are three or four of us that can play all around the diamond.”

He is one of 19 seniors on the Mesa State team this season, including nine pitchers.

The Mavericks, ranked 27th in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, return 11 pitchers and four starters from last year’s RMAC champion squad (42-17) with a goal of winning more than a fifth consecutive RMAC title. Mesa State’s season begins Feb. 6 at Grand Canyon University, with the home opener scheduled for Feb. 12 against Cal State Chico.

“The number one is really important in our program,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said.

“One day at a time, one out, one inning. If we take that approach, we have the opportunity to achieve some number one statuses in a lot of areas. It’s going to be an instance where guys will have to drive themselves. The sky’s the limit for this group if they keep the right level of focus throughout the year. It’s going to have to be a collective group.”

Bodenchuk played a large part in the Mavericks’ success in 2007 and Hanks says he will be relied upon again this year.

“Outside of his baseball skills, Matt as a person, team captain and leader on this team for numerous years is a real shot in the arm,” Hanks said. “His arm is 100 percent. He can play short. We’ll rep him at third. He played a lot of first base this summer in the California League.

We’ll look at Mike Provencher at short, third, right field and this fall we put Mike behind the plate and taught him how to catch.

“This is college athletics. That competition will allow guys to become the best ballplayer they’ve been if they allow that to push them.”


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