Torn Labrum Sidelines Baseball's Hordon

The deep freeze abated long enough Monday afternoon for the Harvard baseball team to practice outdoors. Having lost ten seniors last spring and gained a dozen newcomers, the squad looked decidedly different from the team that brought home the Ivy League Championship in 2002. But more than graduation had taken its toll.

Junior pitcher and first baseman Marc Hordon will miss the season with a torn labrum, the latest and most dramatic setback in what has been a brilliant but injury-plagued career. Hordon turned in a gritty performance in the first game of the 2002 NCAA Regional against Rice weeks after spraining the same shoulder and missed two weeks earlier in the season with a broken left hand. He also injured his other labrum as a freshman.

His outings limited during last year’s title run, Hordon still finished tops on the team with a 2.79 ERA and was one of the team’s leaders with a .325 batting average in 24 games. When healthy, the 6’3 righthander was half of a devastating 1-2 combination with Ivy League Co-Pitcher of the Year Ben Crockett ’02, now in the Colorado Rockies’ system.

“I had scouts come here to see Crockett and thought [Hordon] was him,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “Some of them liked Hordon better.”

Hordon’s current shoulder troubles began against Brown in late April, when he slid awkwardly into third base on an attempted steal. Hordon didn’t even get the base—the attempt happened during a timeout—and he didn’t pitch again until NCAAs. There, a still-recovering Hordon relied heavily on a 56-mph eephus pitch that briefly stymied Rice before the Owls broke through against the big righty.

Hordon pitched in the prestigious Cape Cod League later in the summer, but according to Walsh his velocity dipped as the season went on. A checkup in the fall revealed the extent of the tear.

Hordon will miss the debut of the recruiting class—one that Walsh calls “the best I’ve had since I’ve been here”—that will now be pressed to fill a still greater void.

Kropf Departs

The story surrounding another Crimson departure is less clear. Mickey Kropf—the would-be junior catcher/infielder—packed his bags over reading period and transferred to Vanderbilt.

Kropf split time between catcher and third base last season, hitting .262 while seeing his time behind the plate dwindle as then-freshman Schuyler Mann established himself as one of the league’s best catchers. But he forever cemented his place in Harvard baseball lore last May in a one-game divisional playoff against Brown. With the Crimson’s season down to its final strike, Kropf’s RBI triple to right-center tied the game, and he scored the game-winning run moments later as Harvard lived to play another day.

Now, Kropf is in Nashville. In an e-mail message sent from Tennessee in late January, Kropf did not go into his decision in detail.

“I enjoyed my time as a student-athlete at Harvard but I felt it was time to move on with my career,” Kropf said. “There are many things about Harvard that I will miss, especially my teammates, but my leaving was a personal decision that I had to make. I wish the 2003 Harvard baseball team the best of luck.”

Kropf’s older brother Andy played college baseball for the Commodores. He has spent time in the Detroit Tigers organization and was invited to Tigers’ spring training as a non-roster player in mid-January.

Walsh said that Kropf’s decision took him by surprise.

“All these years, I’ve never had a transfer,” Walsh said, adding that Kropf informed him of his decision at the end of the fall semester. “To me, I think he was disappointed with the seven weeks. He’s a hard worker; he wants to be out there.”

The “seven weeks” refers to the Ivy League’s recently-instituted seven-week rule, which mandates seven weeks of dead time for each team during which they cannot play or practice. The rule has been met with protest by scores of athletes, but if the move was the motivation behind Kropf’s departure, he would be one of its first concrete casualties.