UNIVERSITY PRESS

Junior outfielder recovers from a fastball to the face, finds success at the college level

After being hit in the face with a baseball in his junior year of high school, FAU junior outfielder Mitchell Hardigan has impressed at the collegiate level.

Junior+outfielder+Mitch+Hartigan.+Photo+by+Alex+Liscio.

Junior outfielder Mitch Hartigan. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Zachary Weinberger, Sports Editor

In a tournament in Miami for the Jupiter High Warriors baseball team in the spring of 2017, current FAU junior outfielder Mitchell Hartigan was up to the plate. 

 

As he awaited the pitch, the pitcher lost control of the ball and hit Hartigan square in the face. He required surgery and missed the rest of the season. 

 

An injury that intense could make a player hesitant when coming back, but according to Jupiter High head coach Andy Mook, when faced with great adversity, Hartigan had “grit and determination.”

 

The pitcher was throwing high 80s, low 90s when we were at a tourney in Miami,” Mook said. “Several bones were fractured and required surgery and ended his season.  I was worried about anyone being able to come back from that, but Mitch did it without fear. I don’t think he even laid on the ground, just on one knee.”

 

Since the gruesome injury and graduating from high school, the now-sophomore is representing Palm Beach County again by emerging as one of the best players on the FAU baseball team. In college baseball, it’s a rarity to see a local performing this well, so early.

 

Last season, he hit six home runs, drove in 33 runs and had a batting average of .322. He hasn’t skipped a beat, as through the first seven games of the young 2020 season, he’s already hit one home run going along with eight RBIs, scoring six runs and batting a .478 average. 

 

Hartigan talked about the benefits of playing at FAU, and they don’t involve baseball. 

 

“It’s really nice because my dad can come to a lot of the games,” Hartigan said. “He’s the biggest inspiration I have so having him there to help me out when I’m doing bad is a plus and knowing a lot of people in the area and playing in front of them and it’s been a lot of fun.”

 

The Jupiter native is one of four players who are from Palm Beach County on the team. He said he didn’t expect this type of production early in his collegiate career. 

 

“Starting last year, I got in there as a freshman and made the most out of my opportunities,” Hartigan said. “I had struggled in the fall going into this season and I just had to reset my mind a bit and I’m happy to be succeeding now.” 

 

Without hesitation, Mook, who’s been the head coach of Jupiter High for nine years, knew this type of success was on the horizon. He described Hartigan as a “great, hardworking kid [who] never gave less than 100 percent.”

 

For FAU head coach John McCormack, Hartigan is “diligent, versatile and a great athlete.” McCormack appreciates his style of play and how he progresses as time goes on.

 

“The thing about recruiting is that you look for guys that will give you options,” McCormack said. “He could move everywhere in the outfield, he could pitch but last year he needed to concentrate on swinging the bat and becoming an every day collegiate player.”

 

A new position

 

McCormack talked about how Hartigan has matured with his intelligence on and off the field and was excited to get the chance to use his coveted pitching abilities. He made a couple of pitching appearances last season but this year, he’s been challenged with a new goal by McCormack: being the closing pitcher.

 

He got his first taste of action on Feb. 18 after he pitched the final inning against Florida Gulf Coast University. After achieving his first save as an Owl, McCormack said that they were “grooming him to become their closer.”

 

While it’s a big task for the sophomore, he feels ready to show off his talents in that area of the game. 

 

“I feel pretty good, even though I took a lot of the fall off from pitching,” Hartigan said. “Last year as a freshman I was mostly a pitcher. When I started to do well hitting, I phased out, but I kept my arm in shape to start throwing in the spring.”

 

Hartigan also said he got up to throw the baseball 92 miles per hour. Pitching on and off throughout his time here at FAU, throwing that fast is unprecedented.  

 

It turns out, seeing Hartigan on the mound shouldn’t be a jarring sight. In his time with the Jupiter High Warriors, he pitched in his senior season where he struck out 47 batters with a 2.15 ERA in 42.1 innings. 

 

Mook even decided to put Hartigan as the starting pitcher during the 2018 state championship, where he tossed five innings as Jupiter High would go on to win.

 

During his collegiate career at FAU so far, Hartigan has gone through various ways to perfect his game. While something as simple as a “leg kick” sounds, it’s significant when you’re up to bat. 

 

Hartigan got rid of his leg kick last year but gained it back this season since over the fall he said that it wasn’t working anymore and his timing was way off. Going through hardships before, he’s experienced a lot over time. 

 

“I learned a lot of failure over the fall and didn’t do that well,” Hartigan said. “But now, I’m able to bounce back better from the failure now.”

 

However, is this the ceiling for Hartigan? To coach McCormack, while he thought it would take a while for Hartigan to be where he is now, he feels he still has stuff to polish in his game. 

 

“I think that with guys like that, their greatest games will come when they take the game more to a mental side of it,” McCormack said. “Where if he can understand what pitchers are going to do to him and then turn the tables, but Mitch is not there yet, though that’s the next phase for him.”

 

While it sometimes gets lost in translation, student-athletes like Hartigan have other passions. One area of interest for the outfielder/pitcher is film. The sophomore’s favorite film? “Interstellar” directed by Christopher Nolan. 

 

“I’m a big movie guy for sure,” Hartigan said. “Talk about Interstellar a lot, huge MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] and superhero guy.”

 

Other than his love of film, Hartigan and the Owls are trying to get back to the Conference USA final where last season, they lost to Southern Miss 4-0. Hartigan said that the team and himself have a large chip on their shoulder and their expectations this year are high. 

 

Hartigan will look to continue his impressive run as the 2020 year moves along, but what advice does he give for local players who were once in his shoes?

 

Zachary Weinberger is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @ZachWeinberger.

About the Contributor
Zachary Weinberger, Editor-in-Chief

Zachary Weinberger is the Editor-in-Chief who's previously worked as the sports editor and a contributing writer. His twitter is @ZachWeinberger and his...

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