Cards pitcher’s near-death baseball story coming out in new book next week

St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon stretches in the dugout during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Monday, July 23, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

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.

About the St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of Major League Baseball’s iconic franchises. The team with the “Birds on the Bat” have won more World Series titles than any other National League club, and are second only to the New York Yankees overall.

St. Louis has been home to a National League franchise since 1892, but the franchise wasn’t known as the Cardinals until 1900.

Behind future Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby, the Cardinals won their first World Series in 1926 over the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Yankees. The ‘Gashouse Gang’ era Cardinals dominated the 1930s thanks to Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize and Joe Medwick and won the 1934 World Series.

Did you know that Branch Rickey, who would later rise to fame for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues and breaking baseball’s color barrier, invented the minor league farm system we know today with the St. Louis Cardinals? It was Rickey who built a system of affiliate teams to grow talent that would later shine in St. Louis. In the 1930s and 1940s, that system produced the likes of future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, all of whom won World Series championships for the Cardinals.

The Musial-era Cardinals would later give way to a new generation, and it was Bob Gibson and Lou Brock who helped bring the World Series back to St. Louis in the 1960s. Gibson had one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history in 1968. He was so good baseball lowered the mound the following year.

The 1970s saw the end of the Gibson and Brock years, the trade of Steve Carlton to Philadelphia and the arrival of Keith Hernandez. Hernandez would share the 1979 NL MVP award with Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell.

For the Cardinals, the 1980s could be summed up in a single word: Whiteyball. Behind Manager Whitey Herzog, baseball in St. Louis became synonymous with speed, stolen bases and defense. Shortstop Ozzie Smith was acquired from San Diego, and with Hernandez, second baseman Tommy Herr, a rookie outfielder named Willie McGee and closer Bruce Sutter, the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers. After Hernandez would dealt to the New York Mets, that core of players, along with slugger Jack Clark, would get the Cardinals to two more World Series trips that decade.

The 1980s saw the end of the Gussie Busch ownership era for the Cardinals. When he died in 1989, the Anheuser-Busch brewery took over after nearly 40 years under his watch.

In 1996 the brewery sold the club to the ownership group still led today by Bill DeWitt, Jr. The DeWitt family brought in former Oakland A’s manager Tony LaRussa, who would go on to be the winningest manager in team history. With another former Oakland hand running the front office in Walt Jocketty, the team acquired Mark McGwire from the A’s in 1997. The slugging first baseman would break Roger Maris’ single-season record for Home Runs in 1998 in a chase with Sammy Sosa that captivated the nation, only later to be tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs that McGwire admitted to years later.

In 2001, a young rookie named Albert Pujols burst on the St. Louis scene. Playing all over the field, he was the runaway winner of the National League MVP, setting the stage for the most dominant decade of offensive performance ever seen in a player’s first ten years in Major League Baseball. Catcher Yadier Molina came on board in 2004 as the Cardinals made their first World Series appearance since 1987. Two years later, a rookie pitcher named Adam Wainwright would fill in as the closer on a club that won its first World Series since 1982.

The Cardinals’ third World Series appearance in eight seasons may have been the most improbable when it came in 2011. A team that was left for dead at the start of September managed to roar into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season behind the pitching heroics of Chris Carpenter down the stretch. Once in the playoffs, the legend of David Freese was born. Freese, a St. Louis County native, won the National League Championship Series MVP by slugging three home runs against Milwaukee. Then in the World Series against Texas, down to the team’s last strike in what would have been a Rangers clincher, a Freese triple tied the game. A Freese home run in extra innings forced a Game 7, which the Cardinals won, bringing an 11th World Series crown home.

Albert Pujols left via free agency in the offseason and LaRussa retired, but the Cardinals kept moving forward, reaching the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox with former catcher Mike Matheny now managing the club. In some respects, the Cardinals are still recovering from what happened October 26, 2014, when outfielder Oscar Taveras, considered a potentially generational talent who could have become the face of the franchise, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

The Matheny era would last 6.5 seasons, until he was replaced by current manager Mike Shildt in 2018.

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