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SEC or Minor League? Pfeifer matures during injury

(First of a two-part series on Farragut High School Baseball players choosing to attend an SEC school or joining a Major League Baseball organization as a minor league. Next week, Nicky Delmonico)

Excessive pull-ups, the root cause of his shoulder tendonitis and muscle soreness, eventually caused Philip Pfeifer to reassess his future as a Farragut High graduate.

Tennessee high school baseball's all-time leader in career wins at 46 and a 44th round Major League Baseball Draft pick of Texas, this crafty ex-Admirals lefty said he's leaning heavily toward attending SEC baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt.

“Especially after the injury, Vanderbilt is looking like a very solid option,” said Pfeifer, FHS four-time All-state honoree (career ERA just above 1.00) and staff ace for three years who missed more than half of the 2011 season due to shoulder problems.

“Vanderbilt is a really good place to get an education, and playing baseball is the way I get to do that,” Philip added. “This opened my eyes to the fact that anything is possible, and any game could be your last.”

On the effects of his son’s injury, “I think Philip has grown from it, he’s become a stronger person,” said Phil Pfeifer, Philip's father. “He’s become smarter and more aware of his body.”

As for the Commodores, “Vanderbilt, as a college, is very good at moving people forward” to Major Leagues clubs, Phil added.

Instead of being disappointed that he was a 44th round selection, Philip said it was “definitely an honor that the Rangers drafted me. … I feel like the Rangers are a great program. They do things right.

“Nolan Ryan [Texas CEO/president and Hall of Fame pitcher] takes a particular interest in the pitchers in his organization,” Philip added.

Being drafted so late “was kinda expected after this spring,” Philip said. “I would imagine an injured player signed to Vanderbilt wouldn't go too high.”

A decision choosing the Rangers organization or Vanderbilt is due by Aug. 14.

Philip's excessive pull-ups started during an intense strength-emphasis workout regimen over the winter.

“Because Philip works really hard he was doing over a hundred pull-ups a night,” Phil said. “At the same time he starts into his throwing program.”

Philip added, “When I started getting into the pre-season, I was still working out too much, that's when it ended up biting me.”

Added strength can mean less flexibility.

“I was talking to one of my friends, and he knows a decent amount of Major League players, and he said, 'If you look at pitchers in the Major Leagues, and a lot of them with their shirts off, you'll laugh,'” Philip said. “But they have to [avoid strength training], because they throw that much.

“They have to forfeit strength for flexibility,” Philip added. “That's something I didn't quite understand completely.”

About seeking orthopedic help, “I dealt with it for a month-and-a-half before we went and saw a doctor because my arm had never hurt before,” Philip said. “Around the first week of March.”

Pitching early in the season before missing about four weeks, Philip came back during the District 4-AAA tourney. He started and fired six shutout innings (100 pitches) to beat Maryville — about 70 more than he needed to throw, looking back.

“There's one spot where if I move [my shoulder] to there I know if it's going to be bad, and I moved it right there and it kinda hit me that it was back,” he said.

Though his high school career appeared over, Philip said he told himself, “'If we make to state, I'm going to pitch whether it hurts or not, come heck or high water.'”

Philip, 18, said he “felt good” throwing 24 pitches as a starter in FHS's 2-0 state title game win versus Columbia Central, ending his career helping lead the Ads to state crowns each of his four years in navy blue while starting all four state championship games.

Expecting a full recovery, Philip said he began “a throwing program from KOC” last week.


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