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Chance to finish what he started

Cody Van De Boe’s senior season is playing out differently than he had envisioned, with a bat and glove instead of a football.

JOHN C. COTEY | Times

Cody Van De Boe’s senior season is playing out differently than he had envisioned, with a bat and glove instead of a football.

Cody Van De Boe vividly remembers every play of his senior football season.

There were only seven.

Mitchell's starting quarterback had planned to walk off the field at the end of the year with the guys he had always played alongside, never intending to take another snap. Instead, his final high school play came in a preseason game at Hudson's Cobra Stadium when he went down with a knee injury.

Surgery and a cadaver graft to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee enabled Van De Boe to join the baseball team.

"He came back and I'm just glad he's able to play baseball," baseball coach Scot Wilcox said. "He has been contributing in all ways. He is slowly creeping up and becoming one of our better hitters. He's been making most of the plays that are hit to him. He's been one of our best baserunners. …

"It's just unbelievable. He's aggressive. It doesn't seem like the knee is holding him back one bit."

Van De Boe returned to Hudson before a March 9 game.

"That was the first time I had been back to Hudson since the injury," Van De Boe said. "… I thought I would finish my (football) career as a high school player. That senior class was the class I grew up with. That was my ideal team to go out on. But I got hurt. Now I just feel like I deserve another season."

Fully healed, Van De Boe zips around the basepaths with a nice blend of speed and power, and he is a valuable leader for an inexperienced team.

Van De Boe is a solid producer, batting .370 with 12 RBIs and nine runs before going 2-for-3 Monday with an RBI in a 4-3 win over Zephyrhills.

"I love the kid," Wilcox said. "If I need someone to bunt, he bunts. Whatever we need him to do he does. … He executes every time you need him."

Wilcox moved Van De Boe to second base when it was clear he was not a catcher. He has bounced around the batting order, recently hitting fourth.

And there don't appear to be any lingering knee problems.

Van De Boe said he has not watched video of that final football play, but remembers it well.

"The last one was a play-action right, I fake the ball to Ricky (Trinidad), drop back, I felt pressure, went to run and my knee went the other way," he said. "I heard a pop and then I went down. I'm not sure if I got hit."

The initial prognosis gave Van De Boe a chance at returning. But further examination revealed a torn ACL and partial tear of the meniscus.

"He was positive," football coach Brian Wachtel said. "Then we got news he needed surgery. He was a man. He came out to practice in tears and said, 'Coach, I'm done.' I think he handled it as well as anyone I've coached."

Van De Boe spent the season on the sideline trying to inspire teammates with words of encouragement, a pat on the shoulder pads, a high five.

He was honored with his teammates on senior night.

"I remember looking in his eyes and saying, 'You're as big a part of this as everyone else,' " Wachtel said. "The best thing with him is he's made a full recovery. He's doing phenomenal in baseball."

That night Van De Boe returned he went 1-for-5 with a pair of RBIs in a 9-6 win.

One thought bounced around his head before he gripped a bat.

"I knew I wanted to win, not because it was Hudson or baseball," he said. "I wanted to win because I wanted to finish what I started the last time I played (football)."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

Chance to finish what he started 04/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 12:08am]

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