A promising career in pro sports can disintegrate in a heartbeat.
The awkward twist of a knee or a torn arm muscle can quickly turn an exciting future into a dark present.
Riverview High School pitcher Anthony Ferrara had enough of a scare last year to know how quickly a career, and perceptions from big league scouts, can change.
Ferrara felt a twinge in his left shoulder midway through his junior season, but didn't think much of what was later diagnosed as bicep tendonitis.
"It was something that a lot of people get. It's real minor," Ferrara said. "My velocity was still there. It's just a little irritation. But I tried to pitch through it and took too long to do anything about it. That was a mistake on my part."
His coach, Bill Leiby, said the initial injury was misdiagnosed and, along with Ferrara's family, felt a trip to Birmingham, Ala., to visit renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews was in order. Ferrara was put on a strength and conditioning program and said he feels better than ever.
Leiby said it took Ferrara most of his senior season to regain his rhythm and proper form after not pitching last summer and rehabbing his shoulder through the winter.
Scouts who followed Ferrara when his 90-plus mph fastball, sharp-breaking curve and developing changeup made him one of the top pitching prospects in the state, took a wait-and-see approach this spring.
But Leiby said they returned in droves earlier this season when word got out that Ferrara was again throwing in the mid 90s.
"The layoff from last summer and winter hurt him a little bit, and it took him until the end of the season to get his mechanics back solid again," Leiby said. "His last three starts, he was 2-1, and the loss was 5-4 to (perennial power) Sarasota in the district tournament."
Ferrara didn't lose much in high school, finishing 19-6 in four years. This season's 4-4 record included a 2.74 earned-run average in 46 innings. His best effort, and one that convinced scouts and Baseball America he could be among the top 100 picks in next week's major league draft, was a 14-strikeout, two-hit, complete-game 7-1 victory against Chamberlain.
He further elevated his stock with two perfect innings at last weekend's Florida Athletic Coaches Association Baseball Classic in Sebring.
That followed a dominating junior season in which he fanned 57 hitters and allowed two runs and eight hits in 33 innings – resulting in a microscopic 0.55 ERA. He also batted above .300 the past two seasons.
But it's on the mound where Ferrara will make his mark.
His powerful left arm, lanky pitcher's build and overall athleticism put Ferrara in line for a substantial bonus if the draft goes according to his plans.
If he's not picked as high as predicted or the money isn't right, Ferrara has a signed letter of intent to play baseball at the University of South Florida.
"They like him," Leiby said last week, referring to scouts. "I think he'll be one of the first left-handed pitchers drafted in the state. He'll probably be taken before the third round."
Ferrara said he tries not to think about where he'll be drafted, or that his goal of pitching in a World Series could become more of a reality when the draft starts Thursday.
Still, it's heady stuff for an 18-year-old.
"It can be overwhelming," said Ferrara, who has a 3.1 grade-point average. "You think about actually making it up there, and things like the money these guys make. But I'm not really focused on that right now. It's just about either playing summer ball, signing with somebody or going to USF. It's a win-win all the way around."
And if he needs to remain grounded, thank God for parents.
"My mom still gets on me about cleaning up my room," he said. "My family's excited about it. They know it's my dream. We've always gone to Rays games, Tampa Yankee games, USF games. We're always into baseball."