Chad King didn't appreciate how much he missed baseball until he was forced to watch it.
King, Kansas University's 6-foot-4 senior first baseman from Gainesville, Fla., wrecked his right shoulder when he flipped over a fence going for a foul ball four games into last season. He tried to play -- as designated hitter -- in five more games before deciding to yield to a medical red-shirt.
"That was real tough," King said. "It makes you appreciate things you take for granted. Sitting in the stands, I would have given anything to take batting practice or go out and run with the guys."
After two surgeries to repair a laundry list of ailments, including a torn rotator cuff, a torn biceps tendon and torn cartilage in his shoulder, King is back in the KU lineup. He should start again today, when the Jayhawks open the Rawlings Spring Training Tournament in Phoenix against Nevada.
KU (2-1) will play Nevada at 1 p.m. today, Pacific at noon Friday, Nevada again at 7 p.m. Saturday and Northwestern at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
King enters as KU's fourth-leading hitter with a .429 batting average, and he had his first career triple last weekend.
He enters this weekend with six home runs in his year-plus KU career and carries the weight of trying to be KU's greatest power threat.
"Chad can be a big bopper," KU coach Bobby Randall said. "He's so strong. And I think he's ready for the season he wanted to have last year. All we really expect out of Chad is his best effort every day. He's a good defensive first baseman. He made himself an excellent defensive first baseman. Playing every day is going to make a big difference for him, and he'll get better as the season goes on."
Whether he translates his strength -- "He's one of the strongest baseball players I have ever seen," Randall says -- into big power numbers remains to be seen.
KU, no doubt, could use some punch. The Jayhawks hit just 38 home runs last season, the fewest by any league team.
But Randall insists he doesn't expect King to change that single-handedly.
"I told him I don't care if he doesn't hit a single home run," Randall said. "I mean that. The first thing you have to do is learn how to hit. Then you learn how to hit with power. He's so strong, if he learns how to hit, he'll hit with power. He's one of those guys who every time he gets up you think, `If he hits it on the button, it's got a chance to really go.'"
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