By Camas Frank~
A Philadelphia Phillies minor league pitcher, who spent three years in the Cal Poly Baseball program, has been recovering after having his right eye removed.
At the end of June, Matt Imhof, 22, and a former Cal Poly business administration student told his followers on social media about the freak training accident, during routine stretching after a game in Florida.
A piece of metal was apparently propelled into the side of his face when training equipment malfunctioned. In his own words, Imhof explained that, “the doctors informed me that the damage to my eye was extreme and essentially that my eye had been crushed like a grape.”
Cal Poly Head Coach Larry Lee said last week that he’s spoken to Imhof three times since the injury and that, “it’s a really unfortunate, probably career ending,” event.
Most programs are lucky enough to never see such an accident, he added, and that the most common risk to players are weight room injuries resulting from poor form, something that they train to remedy.
While there have been examples of players coping with sight loss, Imhof lost his right eye, which is much harder for a dominant left pitcher, and he was older when the injury occurred. Imhof planned to have a prosthetic placed in the socket.
There are legal issues, said Lee, preventing the player from sharing the details of his accident with his former coach, but Lee’s assessment is that, despite injuries, Imhof still has a good head on his shoulders.
“Matt was a huge part of our program for three years and went on to sign for $1.2 million,” said Lee. “It is just very unfortunate, because though he was a very big part of our success, it’s more so because he’s a great person. I know that he’ll be fine if baseball is over for him. He’s a really smart guy and more than likely he’ll be back to finish his degree.”
The way that sports seasons work with University schedules, students often leave after three years without their degree, returning to fill in quarters where they can. Some even apply to Cal Poly at the natural end of their league careers.
Imhof was a 2014 first-year player draft pick.
The Phillie’s were grooming him for the major leagues with a signing bonus of $1,187,900, one of the largest given to a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo recruit.
According to MLB.com, he was the Phillies’ No. 19 prospect in 2015. However they did not include him in the team’s top 30 prospects for 2016.
The difficulty of finishing a degree is on of the things the school has gotten better at addressing over the years. In 2008, Jimmy Childs, a Mustangs Football wide receiver was inducted into the Mustang Athletics Hall of Fame. Shortly before, he told this reporter, that while he wouldn’t have traded his NFL career with the St. Louis Cardinals for anything, he wanted to impress on student athletes the need to complete their education. In 1978, he said, it wasn’t a simple path.
“I do miss the game,” he said. “You’ve been playing all your life and all of the sudden, that’s it. It’s over. You can’t suit up again.”