The high school career of ace Ringgold pitcher Matthew Crownover is likely over after an MRI taken earlier this week revealed a tear in the left-hander's elbow, according to his father, David Crownover.
Matthew Crownover, rated one of the top senior pitching prospects in the country by several professional baseball scouting services, will see renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham this morning. If Dr. Andrews confirms the tear in the ulnar collateral ligament, the family already has agreed on immediate Tommy John surgery.
"The surgery is tentatively scheduled for Friday morning," David Crownover said Thursday evening. "According to Dr. Andrews, the surgery has a 92 percent success rate and the rehabilitation period is 10 to 12 months. He also said that 50 to 60 percent of pitchers who have the surgery tend to throw harder once they heal.
"This is a tremendous blow to us, but we're trying to stay as positive as possible."
Clemson University coach Jack Leggett told the pitcher this week that his scholarship will be waiting on him this fall. Matthew Crownover committed to Clemson before his sophomore season and signed last fall.
"Matthew was a little worried," David Crownover said, "but Coach Leggett told him, 'Matthew, you've known me for five years now. You're a Clemson Tiger and you always will be a Clemson Tiger. We take care of our own and there's nothing you have to worry about.' That meant the world to us."
Matthew first felt discomfort this past weekend on his final pitch of a five-inning outing in the LaGrange tournament. That pitch was a called third strike, his 10th strikeout of the game.
"He came out and had a strange look on his face," his dad recalled. "They played two games since then and he DH'd. We threw some Sunday and he said it still didn't feel right, so I called and had the MRI arranged. He actually had his final practice today and he must have hit about 40 balls out. Afterward, it got real emotional with his teammates and Coach [Brent] Tucker."
Tucker, whose team is scheduled to play its first home game today since last April's tornado damage, said he's still holding out hope for good news today.
"I'm hoping and praying Dr. Andrews sees something different," Tucker said. "The team will be all right -- we've got a lot of leadership in that dugout, and if any team can handle adversity, it's this one -- but Matthew is such a great kid and he's always done everything the right way. To see something like this happen to such a good kid ... it's tough."