Aaron Lovett thought his lifelong dream was about to come true.
After dealing with the disappointment of going undrafted following his senior season at the University Kentucky, the former Brownstown pitching standout’s baseball future was very much up in the air until he received a call last month from the Toronto Blue Jays.
‘They said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a spot and wondered if you wanted to come down,’ Lovett said.
He didn’t hesitate. The very next morning, Lovett was on a plane to Tampa, Fla., to attend the Blue Jays’ rookie camp, and – presumably – sign a professional contract.
His first day was a bit overwhelming, as he met countless players, coaches and team personnel during a whirlwind tour.
The next morning was more of the same, as he took a mandatory drug test and met with team doctors.
But it was all mere formality – it was just a matter of time before Lovett signed on the dotted line.
Then it happened.
‘I thought I was about to sign my deal,’ Lovett said. ‘But then they closed the door and said, ‘Aaron, we’re sorry, but you’re too much of a red flag with your elbow.”
An X-ray on Lovett’s right arm revealed he had calcified bone spurs in his elbow.
It was no surprise to Lovett, who already knew of the condition and, frankly, didn’t figure was a big deal.
After all, Kentucky team trainers saw exactly what the Blue Jays’ doctors saw after taking an X-ray of Lovett’s arm in May, and they cleared him to pitch through the minor injury.
But the Blue Jays weren’t willing to take such a risk.
And in less than 24 hours, Lovett went from the elation to signing a pro contract and beginning a shortened rookie-ball season to flying back to Lexington facing an uncertain future.
‘He was awfully disappointed,’ said Lovett’s father, Don. ‘He got down there and got that close, and they said, ‘We don’t want to take a chance on you.’
‘First, he didn’t get drafted, then this.’
Chaos greeted Lovett when he got back to Kentucky, as he contacted KU team doctors and coaches, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
‘I pitched through it and it must have been worse,’ Lovett said. ‘I didn’t know what was going on. I thought I was OK.’
The UK staff reassured Lovett that the injury wasn’t that big of a deal. And the Colorado Rockies reaffirmed that opinion soon after by inviting Lovett to fly out to one of their rookie camps.
But the offer sounded all too familiar to Lovett. And with memories of his disappointing experience with the Blue Jays still fresh, he opted to turn down the Rockies’ offer and opt for surgery to clean up the bone spurs.
‘I just said, ‘If the same thing’s gonna happen, I don’t want to have my hopes mashed again,” said Lovett. ‘If I’m gonna play at next level, I want to be as healthy as I can. That way if it didn’t work out, it just wasn’t meant to be.’
The tough decision to opt for surgery was made easier for Lovett to make by the fact that UK was picking up the tab.
‘The school is paying for it, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it,’ Lovett said.
Lovett had surgery two weeks ago, and is currently rehabbing with the Wildcats.
‘So far things are looking good,’ Lovett said.
Lovett can begin throwing again in three weeks, and UK will allow him to pitch in some intersquad games.
Lovett is also using the down time to finish up his undergraduate work at UK.
‘He still had another year of school, anyway, so maybe it was for the best,’ Don Lovett said.
‘I’m gonna stay down here, finish up school and do my rehab,’ Lovett said, ‘and hopefully I can try out for another team in the spring.’