Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Thursday, October 06, 2022

McArthur adds final chapter to his story with sixth year of eligibilty

Brandon McArthur's hair is longer now, long enough to hide the painful memories underneath.

When he shaves it short - and he said he will when the time is right - the long scar on the left side of his scalp will remind him of the brain surgeries from five years ago.

He's also got the scars on his arms from the Tommy John surgery and a right knee still "in the process" of healing from a torn ACL last season.

That all goes out the window Friday, though. That all leaves his mind as the baseball team opens its season against Louisville.

The team may be entering its second season in the Kevin O'Sullivan era, but it's entering its sixth in the Brandon McArthur epoch.

Old man McArthur just realized the other day that some of his teammates were born in the 1990s.

"When I started playing baseball, they were born," McArthur said. "They joke on me every now and then about how old I am."

Two devastating, season-ending injuries - one on the field of play, the other off - have given him a sixth year of eligibility.

His story makes him easy to cheer for, and it's one I grew familiar with last season when I wrote a feature about him. I remember him staring out at home plate from the dugout during batting practice, rarely taking his eyes off the game he loves. I remember his mother, Valerie Bullock, calling me in tears one day after our first interview to tell me more about her son's emotions after his freshman-year injury. I remember watching him burn down the first-base line to beat out a ground ball only to have the ACL in his right leg give out before his effort did.

"It hurt," McArthur said. "It hurt like, 'Why is this happening again?"

In the press box that night, I found myself upset. As much as we're taught to be neutral in sports writing, you'd have to be heartless to be neutral toward his plight. If the baseball team loses every game it plays this season, it won't hurt me a bit. But if McArthur has to suffer through another season with a ruinous injury - even if he can play through it like he did last year - I might take it pretty hard.

He's taking advantage of the extra time in school, taking post-baccalaureate classes in criminology to prepare for a career in the FBI if baseball ever fails him. And he's still optimistic about his chances in the MLB Draft this summer. Despite all that's happened to him, he's not willing to give up a shot at the majors.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

The team is ecstatic to have him back. McArthur represented the entire roster at the men's basketball game on Wednesday, inviting everyone in the O'Connell Center to come out and watch his team compete for an SEC Title, pouring his heart into every word.

The people in charge could have chosen anyone to do that: a veteran with better stats like Matt den Dekker or Avery Barnes, an up-and-coming youngster like Josh Adams or even coach O'Sullivan.

Instead, McArthur got the nod.

And he's no slouch at the plate, either. McArthur had the third-best batting average on the team in 2008 and finished the year with 44 RBIs.

But his leadership role on the team cannot be underestimated, and O'Sullivan was actively telling him last season to appeal to the NCAA for the sixth year of eligibility.

"All the coaches put that bug in his ear and said, 'Hey, we'd love to have you back for one more year," O'Sullivan said. "'We know it's been tough on you, but we're trying to get this thing going in the right direction, and you can make our jobs a heck of a lot easier.'"

The coach also has McArthur tell each incoming group of freshmen his gut-wrenching tale of comeback after comeback, wanting them to learn about perseverance and keeping a positive attitude.

"Hopefully they're listening," O'Sullivan said.

They have to be listening. McArthur's story is impossible to ignore.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2022 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.