Phillies Prospect Matt Imhof Retires from Baseball
In June, former Phillies second-round pick Matt Imhof was involved in a terrifying accident during training that resulted in the loss of his right eye. Though not regarded as an elite prospect for the team–he did not appear in Brad Engler’s list of the top-40 Phillies prospects in 2016–that does not diminish in any way the tragedy of what happened.
As a professional baseball player, Imhof undoubtedly set aside many other opportunities in his life to pursue his dream to play in the major leagues. He was unbelievably close to realizing that dream. He was drafted in the second round of the MLB draft, advanced to High-A ball as a 22-year old, and was considered by many publicly available prospect rankings to be among the top-30 or so prospects in a deep system. In the grand scheme, he was on the doorstep with his hand on the knob of an unlocked door that led to the fulfillment of his life-long dream.
Then, while engaged in a routine postgame routine with an exercise band, it all ended when a piece of hardware came loose and shot into his eye. In milliseconds, his career was essentially over.
Today, in a first-hand account on ESPN.com, Imhof formally announced his retirement from baseball. The entire piece is worth reading as it is exceptionally well-written and, more importantly, shows a 23-year old dealing with the instantaneous shattering of his professional dreams with an inspiringly mature perspective.
I won’t say any more, but will leave you with some highlights from the piece. I’d encourage you to skip the highlights and just read the entire thing yourself.
Sitting on an athletic training table in Brevard County, Florida, on June 24, 2016, a brief moment of clarity came amid the chaos.
“Mick, am I going to lose my eye?”
I didn’t ask because I didn’t know the answer; I asked because I needed to hear a lie. I needed the fake reassurance that everything was going to be OK because, in that moment, I honestly didn’t know if it would be.
I felt like the person who walked into that training room in Brevard County was not the same person sitting alone in this hospital room. Everything I thought I knew, everything I had planned for myself, was gone. Baseball, my future, my vision, all of it.ESPN.com
I’m not going to lie, it made me angry. I was depressed. I was confused. But mostly, I was scared. I felt like I had lost a lifetime of work. But it was more than that. I hadn’t lost it, it was taken from me. I wasn’t Matt Imhof anymore; I was a shell of him. The real Matt Imhof died in that training room along with his future. The only thing that defined me now was an injury.ESPN.com
I’m a firm believer that baseball, through all my struggles on and off the field, prepared me for this moment. But the greatest thing baseball ever did for me was teach me who I could be without it.ESPN.com