McMinn Central's Eric Hart making strides in return from surgery

McMinn Central's Eric Hart making strides in return from surgery

April 15th, 2014 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Eric Hart is proving himself right while proving others wrong.

McMinn Central's senior catcher is coming off labrum and rotator-cuff surgery and is hoping to catch the eyes again of college recruiters.

"Back when it happened, those two surgeries together, he was getting a few looks, and after that everybody was 'wait and see,'" said Travis Hart, Eric's father and coach.

Eric had the surgery in August and wasn't given a medical release until the day before the high school season officially opened.

"He's doing pretty well, although his arm strength isn't yet back where it needs to be," Coach Hart said.

Eric was extremely limited in what he could do until Dec. 10, and he didn't pick up a baseball until the day after New Year's.

"Behind the plate as far as blocking and receiving, you can't tell he's been out," the coach said. "He's picked off a few and thrown some out even though he's still getting back."

Before the injury, the elder Hart was getting calls about his son from some smaller Division I schools, a few mid-majors and several junior college teams.

"I don't think anybody has totally written him off, and nobody has told us that they won't be back," Coach Hart said.

Of course a .350 batting average against mostly Class AA competition isn't going to turn any heads.

"The doctor said that technically the surgery shouldn't affect his swing, but he had been going up [to bat] with the idea of trying not to get out rather than knocking the cover off the ball," Coach said. "He was initially afraid of swinging hard. Now, though, he's starting to hit."

Saturday against LaVergne, Eric had three doubles and six RBIs.

On another note involving McMinn Central, District 5-AA coaches voted to change the postseason tournament from games at higher-seeded teams to a central site after the lone play-in game. That site this year is at McMinn Central. The play-in game is scheduled for May 1.

Tornado stand alone

McCallie is the only Chattanooga-area team listed in the latest poll generated by the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association. The Blue Tornado are fifth in the Division II-AA rankings.

Teams that could enter the ratings soon are South Pittsburg, Boyd-Buchanan and Whitwell in Class A.

Boyd-Buchanan and South Pittsburg will be playing in the Yellow Jacket Classic this Thursday-Saturday at Lookout Valley. The tournament, which features Class A teams, includes Franklin Road Academy, No. 9 Rockwood and Columbia Academy.

Games on Saturday begin at 11 a.m. with the first semifinal. The championship contest is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Trojans Invitational

The annual Soddy-Daisy Trojans Invitational is also Thursday through Saturday with the championship game scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.

Tournament sites include Bradley Central, Central, Ooltewah, Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy.

There are 16 teams in two larger pools.

"We are doing away with semifinals. The winners of each pool will play the championship game," Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley said.

"We used to use four fields because of the number of teams we have and the limited amount of time," Hensley said. "It works out well to use Bradley and Ooltewah because we have some Knoxville teams and it's just more convenient, and we wanted to make sure everybody had time to get home for Easter Sunday."

The Trojans are involved in perhaps the week's biggest series. They and East Hamilton are tied for first with Bradley Central in District 5-AAA. Soddy-Daisy and East Hamilton play at 7 tonight at Soddy-Daisy and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Chattanooga State.

Contact Ward Gossett at or 423-886-4765. Follow him at