Vancouver, BC - Mark Hardy was back in familiar territory last week, on the mound at Nat Bailey Stadium. The 24 year old, who pitched for four seasons with the UBC Thunderbirds, was back in Vancouver as a member of the short season single ‘A’ Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League on a rehab stint.
It has been a whirlwind two years since the San Diego Padres drafted Hardy in the 43rd round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. He has played in five different leagues, represented his country twice, and been named the Canadian Minor League Pitcher of the year in 2011.
The native of Campbell River, BC is the midst of trying to get back into form after missing a couple of months due to an injury to his throwing shoulder.
“It was just a bunch of rotator cuff inflammation,” said Hardy. “I was out for a total of two months. I took three weeks off and then started to build my arm back slowly, pitching a couple of bullpen sessions and then a couple of simulation games. Finally I had one outing in Arizona (Rookie League) and now I’m up with Eugene to complete the rehab.”
Hardy pitched twice for the Emeralds against the Canadians in Vancouver. In three innings of work he allowed five hits and gave up one run. It was the first time he has pitched professionally back in his old stomping grounds.
“This is definitely nice to finally play here,” said Hardy. “When I was first with Eugene a couple of years ago I missed this trip and never got the opportunity to play here. It brings back some great college memories and it’s been nice to have my folks and friends in the stands to watch me play.”
Now in his third season of professional baseball, Hardy is forcing the Padres to take notice. Before the injury, the left-hander had made it up to double ‘A’ San Antonio where he had a pair of starts.
“When you are a 43rd round pick, there is the stigma that in reality you are just a body,” said UBC head coach Terry McKaig. “The club’s thinking is they will give you two years and if you don’t perform, you are expendable. Mark put himself on San Diego’s radar last year with a great season in Fort Wayne, throwing 129 innings, and proving he was worth the time and effort.”
After being drafted in 2010, Hardy had a crazy summer going from rookie ball, to short season single ‘A’, to long season single ‘A’, to double ‘A’, with stops in Arizona, Oregon, California, and Texas. Last year he spent the entire season with the Fort Wayne TinCaps of the single ‘A’ Midwest League. He went 11-10 in 19 starts, boasting an impressive earned run average of 2.78 and then helped win Canada’s first ever gold medal in baseball at the Pan American games. To cap things off, he was named the Canadian Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
“It was definitely a great year,” said Hardy. “The gold medal was a big deal. Getting to represent my country was huge and I will have memories to last a lifetime. Now the challenge is to get back to 100% and continue to improve.”
“Even though he had a setback, the Padres are willing to give Mark a lot more time to get healthy,” said McKaig. “There has been no rush whatsoever. They realize his potential and therefore just want him to get back to where he was and finish off the season strong.”
McKaig believes he is a part of the Padres long-term plan and has the ability to one day be a big league reliever. A lefty with four different pitches is appealing not only to San Diego, but every team in Major League Baseball.
Currently Hardy is back with Lake Elsinore in high single ‘A’ ball in the California league and is eager to get another opportunity to move up in the Padres system.
“I want to get back to San Antonio and prove I can pitch there on a regular basis,” said Hardy. “Obviously with the injury, I have to be patient, but I know I can do it.”