Kaleb Denny dug his cleats into the batter’s box on a lazy Thursday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. With the score tied at 0–0 in the bottom of the second, the at-bat was seemingly inconsequential to the final result.
But to the redshirt freshman, it was everything.
“It was an awesome experience,” Denny said. “It’s been a long time coming, but it was great to finally be off the bench and back on the field again.”
The at-bat marked the first time Denny appeared in a live game since his junior year of high-school. He shined in his first three years at the high school level, playing at Barbers Hills High School in Mont Belvieu. The son of Longhorns legend David Denny — who holds Texas career records in hits, RBIs and doubles — Kaleb earned first team All-District honors as a sophomore and junior.
Denny looked primed to complete his senior season as one of the preeminent prospects in the nation. But a knee injury suffered as Barbers Hills’ quarterback put Denny’s collegiate baseball hopes in serious doubt.
The injury rehab was supposed to last just six months. But multiple setbacks forced Denny to sit out not only his senior year of high school, but also his freshman season for the Longhorns.
“The hardest part has been sticking with it,” Denny said. “Going through the pain over and over again and having three surgeries was tough.”
Denny’s road to Disch was a painstaking one. Before even stepping foot on the field, Denny put in significant work in the weight room, attempting to regain strength in his leg. It did not go unnoticed by teammates.
“That kid has worked his tail off,” junior catcher Tres Barerra said. “He’s doing whatever it takes to get back on the field. The guys in the locker room see that.”
The at-bat against Stanford set Denny’s season in motion. He slapped a single into the outfield and reached base for the first time in nearly three years. Through three games into the 2016 season, Denny has appeared in four games, hitting .273 in 11 plate appearances. Head coach Augie Garrido said he plans to ease Denny onto the field.
“We have to remind ourselves that he hasn’t played in two-and-a-half years,” Garrido said. “We’ve got some older guys like him who were very good out of high school that were hurt and had to come back slowly.”
After over two-and-a-half years off the field, Kaleb Denny is back. It’s been a long period of setbacks, but Denny says he’s ready to once again be the player he once was.
“I’m still healing and getting faster and getting stronger,” Denny said. “But I absolutely think I can get back to where I was before.”