Prospect Loses Eye: Philadelphia Phillies Pitching Phenom Has Eye Crushed At The Ballpark

Philly.com was the first to report that Matt Imhof, one of the Philadelphia Phillies’ hottest pitching prospects, had his eyeball literally crushed in a freak accident that occurred before one of last week’s minor league games in Florida.

Imhof seems in amazingly good spirits for a young man who just lost his eye and, with it, the extreme amount of promise he held, and the 22 year-old former prospect shared an image of his current state on Instagram yesterday afternoon.

Imhof’s life-shattering accident occurred when he was warming up before his pitching appearance for the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies’ high-A division affiliate. The young prospect was stretching out his arm by pulling an elastic resistance band anchored to the wall. Imhof was at the apex of one tug when the screws attaching the iron base to the wall came loose and the sharp iron projectile came towards his face.

Unfortunately for the prospect, the large iron base hit him at just the wrong spot and at just the right angle to completely decimate his right eye — medical experts would later tell him his eye was “crushed like a grape.”

Imhof was, of course, rushed to the hospital, and he soon found himself being treated at what is widely regarded as the best eye hospital in the world, Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. It was quickly discovered, though, that there was basically no chance the eye could be even partially salvaged, and Imhof and his doctors agreed that the best chance he had “to live a normal life” was to have the eye removed and replaced with a prosthetic one.

In what must have been an extremely difficult-to-accept decision, Imhof gave the physicians the okay to perform the eye surgery.

“This decision was not an easy one to make, but to me it seemed like the right one, so on Tuesday afternoon, I went forward with the surgery,” Imhof writes in his Instagram post, in which his damaged eye is covered with a bandage.

“This has been the hardest week of my life, but I’ve had amazing support from my family and friends to help me get through it.”

Publications like CBC Sports agree, however, that the level of resilience the young prospect is showing is truly remarkable and inspiring –not what you would expect from a young man who loses an eye.

“I just wanted to write this message to let everyone know that even though I suffered some bad luck, I’m not dead,” Imhof writes. “I’m going to be alright, I’m going to persevere, and I’m going to succeed. It takes more than this to bring me down. Again thanks to everyone for the support.”

Way to find the silver lining, Matt!

Indeed, the prospect’s MLB hopes can still be realized. Obviously, losing an eye does not help matters, but Deadspin notes that there are several pitchers who have played professional baseball while suffering from significantly impaired visual capabilities. Take Abe Alvarez, for example, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox for three seasons even after a childhood infection rendered him blind in one eye. Or Julio Urias, a current starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who is nearly blind in his left eye.

If Imhof was a hitting prospect, his chances of making it in the MLB after his eye injury would likely be ruined, but pitchers can come back from losing an eye.

There was once a pitcher who played for the Yankees with only one hand, and he was really good.

The point is that Phillies fans needn’t give up hope as far as Imhof’s career is concerned just because he lost an eye.

In addition to the eye injury, the prospect says, he suffered a broken nose and two broken orbital bones.

[Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]