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UNF Spinnaker

Pitcher has fully recovered from July shark attack, prepares for season

It has been seven months since UNF redshirt sophomore pitcher Clayton Schulz was attacked by a shark while surfing off the coast of Jacksonville Beach July 23. However, as the Ospreys enter the 2011 season, Schulz has made what appears to be a full recovery.

“I kind of got my feet wet last year as far as pitching,” Schulz said. “There’s just nothing like college baseball. I just love the game and I love my teammates. I really want to help the team out this year and get to the post-season and beyond.”

Schulz, a life-long surfer, needed over 400 stitches for the cuts that were through four out of five ligaments on the top of his left foot from the attack.

Despite suffering what could have been a huge blow to his baseball career at UNF, Schulz was determined to get back for the 2011 season. He was even pitching in small doses just weeks after receiving option skin grafts, which not only made the wound look better but also helped in the healing process.

New head coach Raymond “Smoke” Laval said he thinks rehab helped Schulz get through the dog days of fall baseball.

“He was out to prove a point,” Laval said. “This wasn’t going to be a road block. He wanted to overcome it and comeback even better. This was good for him because it got his energy flowing even more. So he wasn’t down at all … right now we don’t even bring it up. It’s not even like ‘How’s the foot?’ It’s more like ‘How’s the arm?’”

The rehab after the attack was not an easy road for Schulz. It consisted of six to seven days a week that included stretching his foot twice a day and working on flexibility. After that, he added strengthening to his list of rehab tasks and worked on getting back equal strength in both legs. Finally, he had to run two miles in under 14 minutes.

“I’ve done what I’m required to do so now it’s back to getting ready for the season and stuff,” Schulz said.

While Schulz has appeared to make a full recovery from his attack, Laval said he still isn’t quite ready to take the mound as a full-time pitcher yet. He said he needs some more game experience to get him used to game situations again, and he said he expects Schulz to come out of the bullpen to start the season. He wants to pitch Schulz as a situational pitcher to start off until he gets his mound presence back.

“That shouldn’t take real long,” Laval said. “We’ll kind of spoon-feed him and put him in situations where we feel pretty good that he can succeed in. That will just double anything if there is anything going on in his dome.”

Schulz pointed out that a lot of people helped him through the process of rehabbing and getting back in time for the 2011 season. He thanked his trainers, coaching staff, family and teammates for helping and said he couldn’t have done it without them. However, he made sure to thank God first.

“God has really been a source of strength for me,” Schulz said. “I couldn’t have done it without him. Sometimes he gives you obstacles in life. My faith has definitely kept me going. I couldn’t have done it without God and everyone who helped me through it.”

The Ospreys have less than a month before the season gets underway. They travel to Charleston, S.C., for a three-game road trip to start the season Feb. 18-20 before returning home to Dusty Rhodes Field at Harmon Stadium, to host Liberty for a three-game series Feb. 25-27.

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