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Seeking 'right situation,' Harman puts baseball on hold -- for now

Westminster graduate Brett Harman finished his University of Maryland career among the school's career leaders in strikeouts and wins. Despite being an all-ACC player as a senior, Harman went undrafted and is planning to begin a life after baseball.
Westminster graduate Brett Harman finished his University of Maryland career among the school's career leaders in strikeouts and wins. Despite being an all-ACC player as a senior, Harman went undrafted and is planning to begin a life after baseball. (photo Courtesy University of Maryland , Carroll County Times)

When his high school pitching mechanics were changed at the college level, Brett Harman had an idea something might happen.

And it did - reconstructive ligament surgery in November, 2010 on his right elbow, just as Harman was getting ready for his senior season at the University of Maryland. Just as his Major League Baseball draft stock was reaching a strong point. Just as Harman, a former two-time Times Player of the Year, started noticing wear and tear in his throwing arm and pondered what to do.

Fifteen months after his surgery, Harman stood on the mound Feb. 19 as Maryland's starting pitcher against UCLA, the nation's 14th-ranked team. Harman tossed five innings and struck out eight in the Terrapins' 5-1 victory, earning the win in his first appearance since May 20, 2010.

Things seemed right again.

"Even up until this season started, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to pitch competitively to batters again," Harman said. "I had one setback during [rehab], so I never got to face batters until the season started. It was a big question mark the whole time. Everything seemed to come together."

But Harman, 23, noticed his fastball topping out around 90 mph. And his velocity wasn't increasing as the season wore on.

Despite that, Harman thrived in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. He went 6-4 with a 3.04 ERA and was a big part of the Terps' first winning season since 2008.

Harman earned second-team all-ACC honors and finished his career with some impressive numbers - his 254 strikeouts are second all-time, his 258 1-3 innings are fifth-best in team history, as are his 16 wins.

"Brett has been a rock of stability to our pitching staff," Maryland coach Erik Bakich said in a statement last month, "and our program would not have had the success we had this season without him."

Harman had hopes of a big-league team taking notice and selecting him in the First-Year Player Draft, but those velocity issues were lingering in the back of his mind. A few teams reached out, Harman said, while the draft progressed. Nothing came of the phone calls, however, and as the rounds dwindled Harman did his best to stay away from any coverage.

"I kind of knew, but it was still difficult," he said. "You learn that to get to the next level, it's more about projectability. They pretty much measure one aspect of pitching: they're looking for 'velo,' and I've never been that kind of pitcher."

Harman said he was contacted by Kansas City after the draft for a possible free-agent deal but declined. Instead, he focused on a career.

Harman's interest in orthopedics grew out of his having surgery and going through a rehabilitation process, and his plan to attend a physicians assistant graduate school program became a top priority.

"Every kid dreams of making it to the major leagues, but you've got to look at the odds," said Bryan Harman, Brett's father and his former coach at Westminster. "It's a tough road. With everything he's accomplished at Maryland, obviously the coaches of the ACC thought he was a pretty good pitcher."

Brett Harman said he's keeping his baseball options open for now.

He's pitching for fun, he said, in a York, Pa., summer league to stay in shape and keep his arm strong. He said he has some physicians assistant internship work lined up as well, and he hopes to start his grad school program soon.

And if baseball comes calling again?

"It just has to be the right situation," Harman said. "As a free agent, you want to make sure you're doing what's best for you at that time. My last start was 18 months [after the surgery]. That's why I'm hoping that with a training program, if my velocity gets up and I see it as a possibility to advance, then I'll pursue baseball."

Added his dad: "Deep down inside, there's a part of him that would still like to give it a try. He's going to look at what he thinks is going to be the best fit for him."

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