CATEGORY: Baseball



Kirk Presley wants the world to know that he has no plans to play quarterback next fall for Mississippi State.

That was one of the hottest rumors circulating in northeast Mississippi earlier this year. Did you hear about Kirk Presley? He’s given up on baseball because his shoulder his shot, and he’s going out for spring football at State.

“I have no clue where that rumor came from,” Presley said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Port St. Lucie, Fla., where he is rehabilitating his shoulder at the New York Mets training camp. “What puzzles me is that if my arm was shot, how could I throw a football (laugh).”

Presley figures the rumor mill started grinding during the fall when he spent a lot of time in Starkville visiting friends who went to school there.

He admits that the thought of coming back to State and playing football did enter his mind.

“I’ve thought about it, but it was nothing serious,” he said.

The Mets come first

Presley’s first obligation these days is to the Mets organization, which made him their No. 1 draft pick in 1994 and paid him the big bucks, nearly a million, to bypass a college career at State.

The 20-year-old right-handed pitcher underwent rotator cuff surgery in June to repair a torn labrum cartilage in the shoulder cavity and a torn shoulder tendon.

Following the surgery, Presley spent the first three months doing only range of motion exercises, building up enough arm strength to begin tossing a baseball. For the next five months, he only tossed the baseball.

At the end of February, Presley started throwing off the mound for the first time. At times, the pain is almost unbearable.

“The doctor said it’s supposed to hurt and to throw through it,” Presley said. “I throw (off the mound) every three days for about 15 minutes. On the days in between I just toss it. There are some days when I can’t throw because of the pain and I have to take a few days off.”

Presley experienced a lot of pain during last week’s workouts.

“I had a bad week,” he said. “The pain was more than normal. But the trainers and doctor are pleased with how everything’s going. They said it would take a year before I’m back 100 percent.”

Presley hopes to land a Class A assignment in Port St. Lucie or Columbia, S.C., in June, then play winter ball or instructional league after the season.

It’s been a tough road

If you know this youngster like I do, you know he’s doing everything by the book in his rehab program.

“I want to give myself every opportunity to pitch again,” he said. “It’s been very frustrating. I don’t think you can ever come to grips with it. You just have to deal with it.”

And Presley’s had to deal with a lot in his two years as a professional. In early ’94, his shoulder problem first surfaced and he rehabed. Early in spring training last season, he suffered a broken bone in his hand bunting and missed a lot of work. When he finally returned to the lineup, he pitched in only a few games before the shoulder problem flared up again.

So the Mets haven’t seen the real Kirk Presley pitch.

“The worst part is that I haven’t pitched enough and well enough to prove myself,” he said. “The Mets have been real supportive, but I’m afraid of being one of the guys this happens to who gets lost in the crowd.”

I don’t think Kirk Presley will let that happen.

Gene Phelps is sports editor for the Daily Journal.

Click video to hear audio