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Gwinnett Grads: South grad Side healing from Tommy John surgery

The curious stares in public don't bother Joey Side too much. It's the awkwardness of the contraption on his right arm that's the issue.

Side's right elbow is braced up in what he calls his "robo arm," a device designed to keep his throwing arm immobile as it heals from Tommy John surgery. A month into his recovery, the Arizona Diamondbacks minor-leaguer has resolved most of the issues with the brace, although he still can't wait to get it off permanently.

"It was a pain, people had to help me move in (to my apartment)," the South Gwinnett grad said. "It took me a couple of days to figure out how to put my contacts on with my left hand. Brushing my teeth was a problem there for awhile, too."

Side's battle is far from over, though. A lengthy rehabilitation process is just starting.

At this point, shoulder and finger exercises are the extent of it. Then the 25-year-old begins the slow journey of rehabbing his elbow after the Tommy John procedure, a surgery well-documented in pitchers but one that also is more common than most people realize in position players.

He said the average timetable for a return is nine months, although some players have returned as quickly as seven. But it takes 12 to 14 months for others to get back on the diamond.

"Everybody's heard about Tommy John, it's a major operation," said Side, an outfielder on Georgia's 2006 College World Series and a sixth-round pick of the Diamondbacks that same year.

Side first experienced elbow pain last spring with Visalia, Arizona's high Class A team. The injury limited him to 18 games, a disappointment after a solid 2007 season with South Bend.

"It got so bad I wasn't able to throw," Side said. "At one point I was just DH-ing, then it started hurting when I would swing."

Side's offseason was filled with extensive workouts to strengthen his elbow. After considering an attempt to play this season and postpone surgery, he chose to have the surgery in mid-March.

Now his life is filled with rehab and video games, which are easy since he's mastered tasks like brushing his teeth. He said it isn't so bad because he spends time with players in extended spring training, but soon those guys will disappear.

Then it's just him and his rehab.

"My goal's to get ready for spring next year," Side said.

SOFTBALL

McGuire, North Georgia rolling

Gwinnett grads played pivotal roles for North Georgia, which clinched the Peach Belt Conference regular-season title last weekend. The 39-3 team is ranked second nationally.

Central Gwinnett grad Courtney McGuire, who powers the Saints' offense, was named first-team All-Peach Belt Conference on Thursday. She is hitting .375 with a league-best 11 home runs, 41 RBIs and 52 runs scored.

Central's Jessica Skeels (.344 average, 12 RBIs) and Parkview's Kim Stercay (.302, 3 home runs, 20 RBIs) also have been key hitters for North Georgia.

Wood re-signs with Austrian team

Former South Gwinnett and Parkview standout Melissa Wood will continue her softball career overseas this season.

Wood recently re-signed with the Dornbirn Sharx, an Austrian Softball League team she played for in 2008. She led Dornbirn to second place in the XXXI European Cup tourney in Prague last year, hitting .480 with five home runs and 14 RBIs to earn tourney MVP honors.

Wood, who played college softball at Georgia, will live in Hard, Austria, during the softball season.

BASKETBALL

Allen undergoes surgery

Michigan State guard Chris Allen, a Meadowcreek grad, underwent surgery last week for a broken bone in his foot. Allen, who led the Spartans in 3-pointers, broke the bone in the NCAA championship game loss to North Carolina.

Recovery is expected to take eight weeks for Allen, who will be a junior next season.

Three locals on academic team

Three Gwinnett grads made the Peach Belt Conference's All-Academic teams - Georgia College's Mandi Dudish on the first team, Francis Marion's Katherine Kiefer on the second team and Columbus State's Chauntel Ferdinand on the third team.

Dudish, a South Gwinnett grad, has a 3.43 GPA in business. Kiefer, a Parkview grad, maintains a 3.76 GPA in psychology, and Ferdinand, a Collins Hill grad, carries a 3.22 GPA in exercise science.

FOOTBALL

McGlon helps South Alabama kick off

Buford grad Lawson McGlon had a good showing in the inaugural spring football game for the University of South Alabama's new program. The kicker made a 42-yard field goal in front of a crowd of more than 8,000 at Mobile's Ladd-Peeples Stadium.

TRACK AND FIELD

Machovec gets NCAA Regional mark

Georgia thrower Israel Machovec, a Dacula grad, hit an NCAA Regional qualifying mark at last weekend's Spec Towns Invitational. He threw a personal-best of 183 feet, 3 inches to win the discus. He also had a career-long throw in the shot put the previous weekend in Auburn.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.