Last summer, Phillies pitching prospect Matt Imhof lost his right eye in a freak accident at the ballpark. Imhof was working out with resistance bands mounded to a wall when the base broke away and hit him in the face.
Following the accident Imhof said on Instagram doctors informed him his eye was "crushed like a grape," and it was unlikely he would ever regain vision in the eye. He eventually decided to have his right eye removed and replaced with a prosthetic.
Earlier this week, in a powerful and emotional piece at ESPN, Imhof described the ordeal, which left him "scared beyond anything I'd ever felt." From Imhof's post:
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.
Luckily for me, I had Dr. Wendy W. Lee to set me straight. Lee performed my second surgery and, in for all intents and purposes, is a certified badass. She walked into the room and asked me how I was doing.
"I'm fine," I said.
It's the same thing you tell someone when you just want them to leave you alone.
She looked at me and smiled, "Matt, the worst part is over. You survived."
She continued, unaffected by my silence, "You have suffered a life-altering injury, not a life-ending one. It may be hard for you to see right now, but you can still do anything you want. You can play baseball again. You can drive a car. You can even be a brain surgeon. Anything that was possible for you before the accident is still possible for you now."
Imhof is doing well now with his prosthetic eye, though he explained he needed time to adjust to his new field of vision. That meant relearning how to navigate crowds, drive a car, and even walk down the stairs. "I couldn't let the injury win and so I began to embrace the struggle. I had no choice," he wrote.
Within the ESPN article, Imhof announced he is retiring from baseball as a player, but not because of the injury. Because he needs "a change of pace after 20 years of doing the same thing." Imhof, who was selected with the 47th overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft, has since returned to Cal Poly to finish his degree. He's also serving as the baseball team's undergraduate assistant pitching coach.
My identity used to be wrapped around baseball, it was who I was. This injury allowed me to see past that. I might not want the same things as I used to, but that's only because I have learned more about myself than I ever thought I would.
What Imhof went through last summer was nothing short of a tragedy. Thankfully, he has persevered and is did not just survive losing his eye, he's thrived. He may not be a baseball player any more, but to use his own words, "the greatest thing baseball ever did for me was teach me who I could be without it."