Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Tragic Tale of Ryan Westmoreland

No, it's not quite the same as the Tony Conigliaro tragedy, but the case of Ryan Westmoreland is a very sad tale nonetheless.

"Tony C." became the youngest home run champion in American League history at age 22 and also reached 100 homers faster than any other player in American League history. Then, while still just 22, Conigliaro was hit in the face by a fastball that ruined his eyesight and derailed his brief but brilliant career.

Westmoreland, on the other hand, never even made it to the majors.

The talented Red Sox minor league outfielder, also just 22, announced his retirement from baseball today. With him goes an extraordinary level of hope, hype and promise. Unfortunately, a whole lot of tremendous potential will never be realized.

Westmoreland was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 draft out of Rhode Island’s Portsmouth High School and quickly established himself as the organization's top prospect.

The gifted, young outfielder wasn't just the Red Sox top prospect; Baseball America rated Westmoreland the 21st-best prospect in baseball prior to the 2010 season.

He possessed a unique combination of hitting ability, power, speed, defensive prowess and a strong throwing arm. Yes, Westmoreland was the rare "five-tool" player, destined to be a major league star.

However, Westmoreland's career was derailed by two brain surgeries, one in March 2010 and the next in July 2012.

Far from being able to resume baseball activities, the young man faced the challenge of relearning the most basic of tasks, such as how to walk again and how to tie his shoes. Westmoreland's motor skills and reflexes were devastated by the cavernous malformation that developed in his brain stem and threatened his life.

While the surgery to correct it saved his life, it didn't spare his baseball career.

Westmoreland's dreams of being a major league player were ruined. In the process, the Red Sox lost a player that may have been a cornerstone of their franchise for years to come.

But life is not about baseball. Life is about living. And Westmoreland is indeed alive and otherwise well. Many challenges lie ahead as he seeks to resume the ability to carryout everyday functions that most of us take for granted.

Westmoreland played just one season of minor league baseball. In 2009 with Single-A Lowell, he hit .296/.401/.484/.885 with seven home runs, 35 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 60 games.

He showed flashes of brilliance that dazzled Red Sox scouts and had the organization eagerly anticipating his arrival to the big league club.

Sadly, that day never arrived and we now know with certainty that it never will. That is truly sad.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing in any young person's life, aside from a premature death, is the inability to realize one's enormous potential.

Hopefully, Ryan Westmoreland will discover his potential in another aspect of his life. After all, Tony C. went on to become a sports anchor in San Francisco when his baseball career was prematurely ended.

With a little luck and perseverance, perhaps Westmoreland will experience equal success in his post-baseball career. He's certainly got a life ahead of him. After all, he's still just 22-years-old.

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