Cardinals RHP Daniel Ponce De Leon On Journey Back From Life-Threatening Injury

St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon recently authored “One Line Drive: A Life-Threatening Injury and a Faith-Fueled Comeback,” a newly-released book that details his strenuous recovery from a near-fatal head injury suffered in May 2017, when he was struck in the head by a line drive in Triple-A.

Ponce de Leon, 29, was hesitant to document his recovery and publish his story to the world. What helped alter his perspective was the opportunity to relay his feelings about his faith, which he credits for helping him return.

“If it weren’t for my faith, I would not have been what kind of a husband, father and baseball player that I am today,” Ponce de Leon said on Glenn Clark Radio March 11. “The faith was what got me out off a lot of low points in my life, and I’ve had a few. … The faith part is essential in helping me.”

The term gruesome may undersell the intensity of the injury itself, which occurred when Ponce De Leon was with the Memphis Redbirds. When the ball made contact with de Leon, it took about 15 seconds before De Leon could even move. Iowa Cubs catcher Victor Caratini, who hit the line drive, stood at first visibly startled with his hands over his head.

He was rushed to a local hospital and underwent emergency brain surgery. Those in his inner circle were informed that there were no guarantees regarding his recovery. Though he spent three weeks in the hospital, he was cleared for baseball activities about three months after the injury. He made his big-league debut the following summer on July 23, 2018, with seven no-hit innings.

Still, Ponce de Leon tries not to think of the injury while pitching

“You never really think about that type of thing,” Ponce de Leon said. “If you ever do think about that when you’re on the mound, you’ll be crippled out there and you won’t be able to get your job done. … When I’m on the mound, I’m in attack mode.”

Ponce de Leon fought for the opportunity to be part of the Cardinals’ rotation during spring training, and the 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander earned a spot in the rotation to start the year. These starts won’t be given to Ponce de Leon by good will, either. He has performed admirably during his short time in the bigs. He has a 3.78 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 114.1 innings, proving he is more than just a feel-good story.

Ponce de Leon’s story might as well be out of movie. Nothing would be a more fitting final scene to this theoretical flick than a Cardinals’ World Series title, and their chances have improved with the acquisition of third basemen Nolan Arenado. Ponce de Leon already has envisioned this storybook ending.

“I always give thoughts to winning the World Series,” Ponce de Leon said. “Every bullpen, I always finish with a 3-2 count, bases-loaded scenario, and I have to land this curveball [to win].”

To purchase “One Line Drive: A Life-Threatening Injury and a Faith-Fueled Comeback,” click here.

For more from Pone de Leon, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: St. Louis Cardinals Archive