Casey Mulholland has no room for anything in his life other than daily optimism and the rigorous routine that will put him back on a baseball field competing at a high level.
Four months after ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery dealt a devastating blow to Mulholland's plans, the Brandenton (IMG), Fla., two-way player is fanatically set on the plan that should lead to his full recovery.
Mulholland, who signed with Ole Miss in November 2009 and plans to re-sign in November 2010, has the mature awareness to think long-term and concentrate on what's possible instead of what happened.
"The rehab is daily, and I'm committed to it," Mulholland said. "It's a grind like the game itself, but I just want to throw on a baseball field. I'm staying focused on what I can control which is baseball down the road. If I don't focus everyday, there won't be a down the road."
A unanimous top-100 national prospect prior to the injury, Mulholland lost only one game during his high school career as a pitcher, and that was the contest when his elbow signaled that something was wrong. Birmingham, Ala., orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure March 31, taking a ligament from Mulholland's left leg to repair the right elbow. His next visit to Andrews is August 23.
The 6-foot-4 standout is on a 15-month timetable to return to action. While normal rehabilitation is quicker than that, Mulholland wouldn't be able to pitch during spring 2011 anyway, so the plan is to enroll at Ole Miss in August 2011 as a freshman. He'll do his rehab at IMG - one of the top baseball schools in the country - and take postgraduate classes at Florida State College in Bradenton.
As long as he stays under 12 hours, he'll be part time and not start his eligibility clock. The plan also allows for Ole Miss to use his scholarship percentage on other athletes next season. Projected to go high in the draft this past June, Mulholland instead watched and rooted for his friends that were also draft-eligible.
"It was just good to see my buddies get drafted," Mulholland said. "I gave them calls, and they got to see a dream reached. It was tough that I could have been drafted, but I know that's still possible in the future. There's a plan for me, no doubt."
Mulholland began jogging one week ago and is hitting off a tee. Even in a limited capacity, the activity has been welcomed.
"They gave me clearance to swing away, and that's been awesome to just participate and be on the field," Mulholland said. "It has been a nice release for me."
Another task for Mulholland is deciding on his travel itinerary for the fall. Technically a recruitable athlete, he can take an official visit to Ole Miss this semester. He's examining the football schedule to find the best weekend for that trip.
"I want to bring some friends and let them experience Ole Miss," Mulholland said. "I'll be up there as much as possible, it'll be nice to bring different people and let them see how great it is."
Mulholland frequently expresses his love for Ole Miss and desire to play baseball in Oxford, Miss., but the Rebels could have to dodge the 2011 Draft to secure his services. By the June 2011 Draft, Mulholland will likely be throwing in simulated intrasquad games at IMG, but the exposure will be minimal, meaning a team would have to take a flyer and meet what could be a high price tag.
"Obviously the draft is an option, but I'm focused and committed to Ole Miss," Mulholland said. "The coaches have been great with me, and that's what I'm excited about. That is part of what keeps me at it everyday."