ST. LOUIS– Cardinals pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon is knee-deep in the mix for a role somewhere on the pitching staff for 2021. He’s shown the ability over the past three years to start or come out of the bullpen. His 2-7 career record belies the fact that he’s shown he can strike batters out at the big league level.
He’s been around at this level long enough for some to forget that he almost died on a minor league baseball field in 2017, when he was struck by a Victor Caratini line drive in Iowa. But that story is about to get a fresh airing with the release of a new book March 9.
In One Line Drive: A Life-Threatening Injury and a Faith-Fueled Comeback, Poncedeleon with co-author Tom Zenner, retells “his remarkable journey, sharing how he never would have made it without his faith in God and the support of family and friends. Full of grit, determination, and faith, Daniel’s story is an inspiring reminder to keep pressing on regardless of any setback or disappointment.”
In Chapter 1 (A Miracle Disguised as a Nightmare), Poncedeleon writes of May 9, 2017:
As soon as the ball left my hand, I wished I could have reached out and taken it back. I knew I hadn’t located it where I intended to. In moments like that, you hope the batter either fouls it off or keeps his bat on his shoulder. I knew it was a mistake. The ball started on its proper course down the middle of the plate, but instead of sinking down and away from a left-handed hitter, like it was supposed to, this pitch didn’t alter its course. It hung right in the middle, exactly the type of pitching mistake that experienced professional hitters jump on.
There are two more things I remember about that pitch, which was my final pitch of the 2017 season. Two sounds, very similar, and spaced maybe a second apart from each other at the most. The first sound was Caratini’s bat hitting the ball… immediately followed by the sound of the ball hitting my head.One Line Drive: A Life-Threatening Injury and a Faith-Fueled Comeback
Poncedeleon writes that he does remember getting hit that day, and didn’t even think at the time he was seriously hurt. He credits minor legue trainer Scott Ansell with making life-saving decisions and literally holding his head in his hands.
It did not take long to get to the ambulance. The medical personnel had essentially strapped down my neck and entire body, not wanting me to make any unnecessary movements. It was as uncomfortable as it sounds, and I could feel by now that my condition was continuing to go downhill. My heart rate was elevating, and I remember feeling much loopier. Just really dizzy and woozy, and I had a sense it wouldn’t be long before I got sick and threw up. It was at this time I started experiencing an incredibly painful headache. This entire time I was still conscious, and Scott was right there by my side, riding with me to the hospital. I was told it was nine minutes from the moment I was struck until I was placed into the ambulance. The ride to the hospital went fast, with the red lights on and siren blaring into a peaceful Iowa afternoon.
I think my state of denial ended somewhere on Third Street on the route to Mercy Medical Center. I was getting worse. I was certain of that. The realities of my symptoms were overtaking my hopeful thoughts of this being a simple concussion. Instead of shaking off my catcher’s signs, I had paramedics monitoring my vital signs. Not exactly the plan I had for the day. The whole experience was completely surreal, like dreaming of being in a very bad movie that you can’t wake up from.One Line Drive: A Life-Threatening Injury and a Faith-Fueled Comeback
Just over a year later, there Poncedeleon was, making his Cardinals debut in Cincinnati on July 23, 2018, when he threw seven no-hit innings against the Reds.