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Brandon McArthur ( 1985 - )  Category ( Sports_Figures ) [suggest a correction]
 

Ten University of Florida baseball players were picked in the most recent major league baseball draft.  First baseman Brandon McArthur wasn't one of them.

Yet McArthur was undoubtedly the best-known player on the Gator squad, overcoming a series of obstacles that would have ended most baseball careers years ago.

The 6-3, 220-pounder was drafted out of Seffner High School in Arrowood, Fla, in 2003, picked in the fifth round by the Minnesota Twins. Had he accepted the Twins' offer, his life might have been very different, but McArthur wanted to taste the college experience.

Before he could play in a regular season game for Florida, however, McArthur was sucker-punched outside a Gainesville bar on Oct. 30, 2003, hitting the back of his head on the concrete parking lot. He underwent two brain operations within the next 24 hours and spent five days in a drug-induced coma.

His assailant, a former Florida student with a history of assault charges and anger management classes, was convicted of assault and sentenced to a year in jail. McArthur was sentenced to more than a year in rehab, and credits personal trainer Larry Mayol with giving him his baseball life back.

"I had a deep revelation when I saw him in the hospital bed," said Valerie Bullock, McArthur's mother. "I knew he was going to be OK and he was going to be back. He would have wilted up and died inside had he not been able to play ball."

When McArthur emerged from the hospital, he weighed 145 pounds and had trouble with speech and memory. He soon discovered that he couldn’t even catch a baseball, much less hit one.

So Mayol and McArthur went to work, and  McArthur was able to play for Florida as a redshirt freshman in 2005, performing well enough to be named to the Southeastern Conference's All-Freshman team. He was a starter again in 2006, but injured an elbow ligament against VMI in the first game of the 2007 season. That necessitated surgery and prevented him from playing third base, his natural position but one that requires a strong throwing arm.

And even with that, there was more pain in McArthur's future -- he played the second half of the 2008 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and still hit .337.

Following more surgery during the off-season, McArthur decided to play another year for Florida when he was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

"I'll always be a Gator," he said.

This season, McArthur hit .337 and led his team into the Super Regionals of the NCAA baseball tournament before the Gators lost to Southern Mississippi.

It remains to be seen whether McArthur will try to play professionally as a free agent. At Florida, however, he will be remembered as more than a baseball player. He regularly visited pediatric hospitals in the Gainesville area, was an active volunteer for Special Olympics, and made the SEC's all-Academic team three years in a row.

"It has been a pretty unbelievable rollercoaster ride," he said of his baseball career.


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