The St. Louis Cardinals experienced a time of fear during the 2017 season when one of their pitching prospects suffered a season-ending come-backer that struck him in the head. I sat down with him recently for an interview.
The St. Louis Cardinals pumped the brakes hard in 2017 when Daniel Poncedeleon was struck in the head by a come-backer. This occurred when the Memphis Redbirds- the Cardinals’ AAA team- faced the Iowa Cubs in Iowa. In this moment all baseball faded away and the focus became upon what really matters: the life of young athlete.
I have written about this moment and about Daniel’s recovery and dealing with the aftermath. For those articles, jump here.
Let me quickly thank Daniel Poncedeleon for fielding my interview questions and for his incredible answers. The transcript of our interview follows.
MM: Growing up, did you want to be a MLB pitcher?
DP: Growing up, I actually wanted to be a fireman. It wasn’t until senior year in high school I started thinking about being a big league pitcher.
MM: Can you tell us about your journey into the St. Louis Cardinals organization?
DP: First off, I was drafted out of high school by the Tampa Bay rays. At that time I had a scholarship to University of Arizona. So my family and I thought it would be best to pursue the school route so I could get an education while playing baseball.
After my freshman year, the coaches at Arizona did not want to renew my scholarship the following year so I had to find somewhere to play. That’s where I ended up at Cypress junior college. I was drafted by the Reds there but I was set on continuing my education and playing in college.
So then next year I played at University of Houston. I was drafted by the cubs there but failed a physical and from that whole event the NCAA deemed me ineligible to play so I had to move on to an NAIA school. That’s when I went and played at Embry-Riddle where the St. Louis Cardinals found me and drafted me.
MM: What is your fondest memory of your climb to where you are today?
DP: I have multiple fond memories but they all branch from my dad always being there and supporting me through my failures and achievements. It’s always nice having someone in your corner you can fall back on.
MM: I have to ask about the come-backer, what do you remember of the moment?
DP: I actually remember everything. I remember when Rosario called a fastball away. I missed my spot and threw it down the middle and then I remember seeing the ball fly back at my head.
I remember everyone standing around me at the mound and I thought to myself I was okay and was wondering why everyone around me was so worried. It starts getting a little choppy once I arrive in the hospital and get a CT scan and a half-head shave. For some reason, they left half my hair on my head.
MM: More of the come-backer, what do you remember of the aftermath, the healing, the fan support, etc.?
DP: The fan support was unbelievable. For a couple weeks in a row, we would receive packages daily from fans, staff from the organization, teammates, and even the big league club players. The healing was more of a waiting game and trying to eat the right things to allow my body to focus on healing my head. The most I remember is being able to see my son take his first steps and start yelling Dada.
MM: What can you tell us about your recovery training?
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DP: At first, the training was aimed for my brain to acclimate back into the strain it used to take on. So we slowly ramped up my workouts until I was able to go full speed at everything. That was about 4 months post surgery, since that point on, I’ve continued my normal off-season training with Eric Cressey. Since I’ve had such a long off-season, we were able to add some more load and strain to help grow.
MM: What are your goals for 2018?
DP: The main goal is to pitch in with the St. Louis Cardinals and stay there. Another goal is to continue in my growing faith of Jesus. I have heavily relied on Him during this recovery process and others have prayed for me and you can see the changes in my own life happening.
MM: If you could be anything and anywhere in 2018, what would those things be?
DP: I would Love to be in the starting rotation for the St. Louis Cardinals in October playing for the 12th World Series trophy.
MM: What is your most dangerous weapon in your repertoire?
DP: That is a tough question to answer because it depends on the situation, hitter, how I’m feeling that day…. but during crunch time, you will most likely see my curveball.
MM: What is your greatest strength outside of baseball?
DP: Outside of baseball, I think one of my greatest strengths is my focus. Once something is in my cross hairs, that gets my full attention, resources, and energy.
MM: If you couldn’t be a baseball pitcher, what career would you choose?
DP: I would love to be a fireman. I enjoy helping people. They’re the first-responders and have to put themselves in dangerous situations for others. They’re sacrificing their own lives for other peoples’ safety. I think that is honorable.
MM: If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower?
DP: My super power would definitely be to be able to make food appear. So many things you can do with that.
Keep an eye on this rising prospect as I predict we will see him this season pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. Thank you to Daniel Poncedeleon and bravo on being brave and recovering from what was a very scary situation!