Last week I published a seven-part series on the difficulties players face on the road to the major leagues.
Now comes the story of a player trying to make it back.
John Maffei of the North County Times has all the details of the comeback opportunity the San Diego Padres are giving to David Newhan, a jack-of-all-trades infielder/outfielder who played the last of his eight major leagues seasons in 2008.
Newhan is trying to come back from a neck injury he suffered in a surfing accident in late 2009. He injured his C2 vertebrae while diving off his surf board and hitting a sand bar. The injury, reports Maffei, is known as “The Hangman’s Fracture,” and is the same injury that left actor Christopher Reeve a quadriplegic.
“I really don’t know why I’m breathing or why I’m not in a wheelchair,” Newhan said. “The fact I’m not is a blessing. I’ve been given another opportunity, and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
The Padres are giving the 37-year-old Newhan a chance to make a comeback. And though they are not committing to Newhan even making the Triple-A roster, they say they’ll find a spot for him somewhere in the organization if he wants it.
There is a lot more in Maffei’s story, so be sure to check it out here.
Neck injuries are a weird and unpredictable thing. Back in the day when I was in the newspaper world covering high school sports, I did a story on a kid who had surgery to repair a broken neck. The injury was discovered during a routine hospital checkup following a car accident. He might have suffered the injury when he fell out of a tree as a boy, or doing any of a number of things that kids do. The doctors really didn’t know, just that the injury was an old one.
Meanwhile, this kid was an all-league safety on his high school football team and an aggressive center fielder who would sell out chasing down fly balls. At any point he could have messed himself up by hitting an opponent the wrong way or landing funny while making a diving catch. But he was lucky, and everything worked out fine.
Whether or not his comeback is successful, David Newhan is also lucky. Can he make the majors? “Crazier things have happened.” He should know.