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May 2, 2013

Baseball: OF Josh Delph recovers, returns to practice

Through a once mysterious viral infection that most could not pronounce, through 15 pounds of weight loss and through two weeks in hospital beds at both ends of the state, outfielder Josh Delph is finally back to work.

The sophomore outfielder returned to practice on a limited basis on Tuesday, swinging a bat for the first time since being diagnosed with meningoencephalitis last month. Still not clear for live action with FSU (35-9) hosting UCF at Dick Howser Stadium this weekend, Delph will be up to 19 total games missed before he could see live action.

"It was real good," Delph said of Tuesday's work, where he jogged and took a few swings, a great mood clearly showing he's not letting the time away affect his spirit. "I felt great out there and it was awesome to be back on the field."

The issue began April 3, two days before a three-game set in Coral Gables, when Delph suddenlt felt fatigued. He thought it was a product of the season, but his conditioned worsened as he took the trip to Miami that weekend.

"I went down and (head coach Mike Martin) saw how I looked and he told (the training staff) to take me to get checked out," Delph said. "They knew I had some kind of virus but they thought it was mono or something, they couldn't really put their finger on it."

He would spend three days at a hospital in South Florida, then was admitted at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for another week and a half. There, he was diagnosed with meningoencephalitis, a medical condition that simultaneously resembles both meningitis and encephalitis. Delph believes he got the infection from a tick bite, which likely happened at a family member's farm outside of Tallahassee.

Delph, who lost 15 pounds due to the infection, said the memories of the time spent in a hospital bed were hazy due to medication, but that family, friends and coaches were around constantly.

"It was awesome to have all of that support," Delph said.

Now Delph, who was hitting .287 with 26 runs in 28 games from the leadoff spot before the infection, hopes to support his team in return once again.

"We're just literally ecstatic that he's back out there with us," Martin said.

Delph's timetable, according to Martin, is that he will miss this weekend's series but could play a 1/2 game or serve as the team's designated hitter during next week's mid-week series at Stetson. If Delph continues to progress as planned, he could see his first start as soon as next weekend at N.C. State.

"He's just got to be sure that he takes it easy, does not get too fatigued quickly," Martin said. "We're going to monitor him closely."

Delph is already seeing improvement. With the return of his energy and appetite, he said he's put back 6-7 of the 15 pounds lost during the episode.

"I'm feeling a lot better," he said.

"It was serious, it still is serious and like I say, I'm just glad to see him back out here," Martin said. "Because it's quite an accomplishment. It goes to show you how dedicated he has been to being in good shape and being able to get through this."

Delph is ready to put the issue behind him and says he won't carry it - or any excuses - into next week.

"My expectations are always to go out, play my best, play hard and I think I'll be fine," Delph said. "I don't have any excuses, either. If I go out and have a bad game, that's on me, not because I was sick."



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