Injured Panther comes roaring back

Mike Franco surpassed expectations and recovered from Tommy John surgery in only 10 months, a procedure that usually takes more than a year to come back from.

Francisco Rivero/ Staff Writer

Major League pitchers Josh Johnson, Chris Carpenter and Stephen Strasburg all share an amazing story with junior starter Mike Franco.

All four of these pitchers suffered an injury that requires a surgery that is known as Tommy John. The surgery is a procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.

Normally, the recovery time for pitchers after having the surgery is anywhere between 12 to 18 months. However, all three major league pitchers and Franco returned after only 10 months of recovery.

The injury happened in the summer of 2011.

“I took about a month and a half off throwing when I got invited to play in this summer league. I played third base at the time and after playing third base most of the time, Coach came up to me and said ‘here’s the ball if you want it’,” said Franco. “Being the guy that I am, I wasn’t going to back down from a challenge, I threw five innings just rearing back and throwing all fastballs.”

As the days went on after Franco’s pitching performance, he started to feel that something was just not right. After a couple of weeks of constant pain in his right arm, returned for his sophomore year of junior college and couldn’t even throw 90 feet.

“I spoke with my coach and we started to do rehabbing and my arm started feeling better, but when I went out for my first start, my arm started to feel the same way again,” Franco said.

Franco faced a decision that would be not only a turning point in his baseball career but also in his life: have Tommy John surgery or give up baseball.

“I didn’t want to get the surgery, I really thought that I was done playing ball,” said Franco. “I spoke with a few people and they all told me that a lot of people have gotten the surgery and have come back better from it, so I sat down and my roommate was the person that convinced me to get the surgery.”

Franco’s roommate was his former pitcher, Texas teammate and current Los Angeles Angels minor league pitcher Reid Scoggins. After Franco’s surgery, the road to the mound was a long and winding one. However, Franco was determined to get back on the field as fast as he could.

“There were days I wanted to pick up the phone and call the physical therapists and tell them that I wasn’t going to be able to come in, but then I realized that I can’t be making excuses if I want to come back healthy and strong,” said Franco. “I couldn’t even sit down and watch my teammates practice because it was too painful for me; I wanted to be out there on the field again so I just dedicated my time to rehabbing.”

All throughout his rehab, Franco would remember a motto that he has lived by all his life and would even get that motto tattooed on his right bicep next to his Tommy John scar.

“The saying I came up with is ‘Some call it luck, but I call it hard work’. It’s just something that I try to live up to all my life,” said Franco. “Every time I would wake up and hear people say it’s just luck, it’s something that he was born with, that’s not how I see it. You have to put forth the effort and time to be the best you can be.”

After months of hard work and intensive rehabbing, the day finally came when Franco could throw on his baseball uniform, pick up his glove and walk out onto the pitcher’s mound he’d been eyeing for 10 months from the bench.

“I called my mom that day because my mom has never seen me pitch a college game and I told her I did it,” said Franco. “She would always tell me in Spanish ‘you can do it, don’t feel sorry for yourself’. It was a game that I wanted to do for my mom because she’s done everything for me ever since I was a little kid.”

Franco has posted a record of three wins and only one loses so far this season while gathering 11 strikeouts and a 4.86 earned run average as he continues on with his comeback season.     

About the Author

Francisco Rivero
: FIU Student Media Sports Director, Co-Host of Panther Sports Talk Live, Sports and Opinion writer, Communications major.