St. Louis, MO - A former Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University baseball player battles his way through a scary on-field injury to mark his name in the school's record book again.
Pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals from the team's AAA minor league affiliate yesterday, becoming the first player ever drafted from ERAU to make a Major League Baseball roster.
It's another historical notch in the belt for the 26-year-old former Eagle, who is also the highest MLB draft pick in the school's history. The Cardinals selected him in the ninth round (285th pick) of the 2014 draft after a great senior season in Daytona Beach, where he posted a 9-2 record with a 1.60 earned run average in 14 starts.
The California native missed much of the 2017 season with serious injuries caused when a baseball hit him in the head while on the mound for the Memphis Redbirds in a May 9th game that year versus the Iowa Cubs.
A pitch delivered by Poncedeleon went straight back to him off the bat of Iowa's Victor Caratini, striking his right temple and causing an epidural hematoma which required immediate surgery at a nearby hospital to save his life.
Following the successful surgery, Poncedeleon remained in that same hospital for over a month. Doctors didn't allow him to throw a baseball again until three months later, which is when his rehabilitation process really began.
Poncedeleon returned to the Cardinals minor league system this year following a spring training invite from his parent club for the second consecutive year. The right-hander has done well in the Pacific Coast League so far in 2018, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.41 ERA in 12 appearances, including 11 starts. He's also racked up 71 strikeouts in under 60 innings.
ERAU head coach Randy Stegall says seeing his former ace do so well as a pro is gratifying, especially after his freak injury.
"What an incredible journey for Daniel from possible career-ending injury to the big leagues in 13 months," Stegall added. "We are so proud of him and excited for his family. Daniel has a special makeup and I am confident he will not be overwhelmed by this moment."
Poncedeleon is not the first ERAU baseball player to make the big show. Nick Regilio pitched for the Eagles in 1997 before transferring to Jacksonville University, where he was drafted in the second round by the Texas Rangers in the 1999 draft. He played two seasons in Arlington, appearing in 24 games between 2004 and 2005.