May 21, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun, used with permission
Jason Kuhn, after shoulder surgery in June 2006, missed all of the last college season as a pitcher for James Madison University.
But the Stafford resident had a profitable comeback last summer when he had a league-best ERA of 0.81 in the Cal Ripken, Sr. Collegiate Baseball League and threw one hitless inning in the All-Star game at Ripken Stadium north of Baltimore.
“I spent all of the (academic) year rehabbing, then I came back and was able to throw,” said Kuhn, who pitched for the Herndon Braves. “I had a really good summer.”
Kuhn, a Brooke Point High graduate, returned to the JMU bullpen this spring as a left-handed pitcher who throws with a sidearm motion. But he noticed problems with his left elbow in March after pitching at Old Dominion University in a Colonial Athletic Association series.
Kuhn was advised to rest his elbow but continued to have pain after pitching two innings against Radford in early April. That ended up as the last appearance of the season for Kuhn, who was 1-0 with an ERA of 7.00 in 10 games this season.
Turning 21 on June 9, he said he has a low-grade tear in his elbow and will not require surgery. He was advised to rest the elbow for about eight weeks.
“I never really had any elbow problems,” he said. “I just felt my elbow was on fire. When I threw against Radford I was wild and all over the place.”
At least this time he will not need surgery. In 2006 his shoulder surgery was performed in Alabama by the noted Dr. James Andrews, who has performed surgery on many major league pitchers and other world-class athletes. Kuhn saw photos on the wall of famous athletes who had been worked on by Andrews. “It was comforting in a way knowing this guy was really good,” Kuhn said.
JMU (34-17 overall, 20-9 in the CAA) ended regular-season play this spring second in the conference and was slated to face ODU on May 21 in the first day of the Division I CAA tournament at North Carolina-Wilmington. Kuhn plans to drive to North Carolina to be with the Dukes for the rest of the tourney. He has not attended road games the latter part of the season while resting his elbow.
The title game for the double-elimination CAA tourney is set for May 24 at 1 p.m. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Kuhn, the son of Sandy and James Kuhn, was a 3-year letterwinner at Brooke Point. He was an honorable mention all-Commonwealth District player as a senior and was the team’s most valuable player under head coach Brian Mays.
But Kuhn, who does not throw hard by major league standards, did not have colleges lining up at his door after high school. He considered Samford in Alabama, where his parents went to school. He also attracted attention from Virginia-Wise, a small school in southwest Virginia.
But the JMU coaching staff saw him pitch at a showcase event in Prince William County when he was in high school.
JMU head coach Spanky McFarland, in his 11th season, has had 63 pitchers sign pro contracts in his 30 years as a college coach. Eleven of those pitchers made it the majors and none were drafted until after they had worked with McFarland.
“When I went to see Spanky, they seemed like a professional program,” Kuhn said of the Dukes, who suffered through a record of 20-35 in 2005.
As a freshman in 2006 Kuhn pitched in eight games for JMU out of the bullpen and was 0-0 with an ERA of 9.00. In seven innings he allowed 11 hits and seven walks with one strikeout. He was a medical redshirt in 2007.
One of his teammates in 2006 was outfielder Kellen Kulbacki, who was the National Co-Player of the Year when he hit .464 with 24 homers. Kulbacki is now in the minor league system of the San Diego Padres.
“That was an amazing experience,” Kuhn said of playing with Kulbacki.
Kuhn plans to take classes this summer (his major is history) in Harrisonburg at JMU and work with Dukes assistant coach Ted White, who handles catchers and pitchers. If his elbow improves Kuhn may try to pitch this summer in the Shenandoah Valley League, a top-flight college summer league, or the Rockingham County Baseball League, which draws current college players, former high school stars and ex-pro players from the central Shenandoah Valley.
“We have a really good team coming back next year,” Kuhn said. “I am really pumped about it. I expect us to do very well.” And Kuhn hopes he is healthy enough to assist JMU.