Division I Pitcher Returns to Play after UCL Reconstuction

Jake and Tommy: The fact that St. Edward senior Jake LaFrenz recently committed to play Division I baseball at Coastal Carolina University near Myrtle Beach, SC. less than three months removed from elbow surgery is a testament to the effectiveness of the Tommy John procedure, which the late Dr. Frank Jobe first performed in 1974.

Thanks to his personal coach, R.C. Lichtenstein, also the pitching coach for Tampa Bay Rays Class AA affiliate in Birmingham, LaFrenz connected with Coastal Carolina pitching coach Drew Thomas, who was looking for a left-hander. Video was sent to Thomas, who liked what he saw, according to LaFrenz. They stayed in touch.

However, while LaFrenz was pitching at an event for scouts from Valparaiso and Pittsburgh in Lemont on June 1, which happened to be LaFrenz’s birthday, the Elgin resident tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left arm. He underwent Tommy John surgery on June 25, performed by well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Cole of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, the same surgeon who performed the ACL replacement of Bulls guard Derrick Rose.

LaFrenz visited the Conway, SC. campus over Labor Day and loved what he saw. Undeterred by LaFrenz’s Tommy John surgery, the Chanticleers coaching staff offered him a roster spot and the chance to play his way into a partial scholarship based on his first-year performance. “They said they don’t see me as a walk-on guy. Before I got injured they said they there was a scholarship with my name on it,” LaFrenz said. “I’m excited. It’s nice to have the opportunity to play Division I baseball. I love the game of baseball so much. I want to be a college coach or general manager someday. I can’t see myself in anything else but baseball.”