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Cole Hamels
Broken arm didn't derail Phillies youngster

By Mike Scarr / MLB.com

Cole Hamels, the Phillies' 24-year-old ace, went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA over five starts in the 2008 postseason.

He won both the National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player Awards, and led his team to its first championship in 28 years.

Flip the calendar back a bit, though, and the likelihood of Hamels reaching this point was non-existent while the prospect of pitching at all was highly remote.

In the summer between his sophomore and junior years at Rancho Bernardo High School, Hamels broke his left arm, but it was no simple break.

Hamels uncorked a pitch in a summer-league game, and the only thing stranger than the pitch that sailed to the top of the backstop was the sound heard by those on the field, in the dugouts and in the stands.

"It was like a board snapped," said Mark Furtak, the pitching coach at Rancho Bernardo who guided Hamels before the injury and ultimately got his young charge back on track.

Hamels fractured his humerus, the bone that runs from the shoulder to the elbow, in two places. Initially taken to a local emergency room, Hamels sat and waited for about two hours before he was seen by a physician. Furtak said the attending physician at first hesitated about how to proceed.

"You don't understand," Furtak recalled saying at the moment. "This kid has a million dollar arm."

Fortunately, the future ace hooked up with Padres orthopedist Dr. Jan Fronek, who repaired the spiral fracture with two metal rods that were roughly the width of coat hangers.

Hamels ended up missing his entire junior season, but he worked out with pitching instructor Tom House to improve his overall strength along the way.

Once Hamels was ready to return, it was January, and he began playing catch before progressing to long toss. Hamels showed no interest in returning to the mound at that point, but Furtak would occasionally get him to toe the rubber.

Age: 24

Hometown:
San Diego, Calif.

School:
Rancho Bernardo High School (Calif.)

MLB Teams:
PHI

Video | Player bio
Still, Hamels wasn't ready.

"He had that fear going that it would break again," Furtak said.

Hamels began pitching from a mound for the first time in May of his junior year, throwing 25-50-pitch bullpen sessions a couple of times a week. By that July, Furtak deemed Hamels ready to face live batters, and the southpaw tossed one inning in the last game of the summer league.

By his senior season, Hamels had been cleared to pitch, though the apprehension was still there. He threw bullpen sessions but did not want to pitch in a live game. Furtak was patient until finally taking the young pitcher aside.

"I said, 'Cole, you're healthy. You've got an opportunity here in the next couple of months to make a couple of million bucks if you want to do it,'" Furtak recalled.

Hamels had a college scholarship in his back pocket but finally trusted his coach and faced Valley Center High School on a 50-pitch limit.

He tossed five perfect innings and ended the year with a 10-0 mark and a 0.39 ERA.

"Nobody even came close to beating him," Furtak said.

There wasn't a scout in the stands that day, but Hamels' confidence returned, along with that of the scouts. The rest is history.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.