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Daniel Ponce De Leon Suffers Skull Fracture While Striving for the Major Leagues

By spring of 2017 life was shaping up nicely for then 25-year-old Daniel Ponce De Leon. The Triple -A pitcher had plans to marry the mother of his son, Jennifer. Daniel was having a season he was sure would get him called up to the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals. But on May 9th of that year, one pitch and one-line drive hit would threaten to take everything, including his life.

Shawn: Did you see the ball coming and do you remember being hit?

“Yes. I remember releasing it, and usually right when I release the pitch, you know if it's gonna be good or bad, you know, and it was one of those, 'Oh, no.' So he hit and, you know, you finish down this way and you go to come back up, and you just can't get the glove back up in time. And I remember getting hit and then being a bit stunned," said Daniel.

The ball had struck Daniel in his temple. He was rushed to the emergency room where doctors found he had a skull fracture that was causing a brain bleed, and it was spreading. Part of his skull had to be removed to release the pressure. The surgery went well, but Daniel wasn’t out of the woods.

“They put a pressure monitor in my head to help regulate my pressure, because if it got too high, they would have to re-take off the skull and I would be living with some sort of mesh covering as opposed to my skull," said Daniel.

That meant Daniel would likely have to live with to a long-term disability, ending his baseball career. Hearing the news, Daniel asked his father for prayer.  

“He's the one who led me to Jesus and that is my number one man that's come into my life," said Daniel.

His father prayed from Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

“Felt peace. I felt – once he – once he got done with praying, I felt calmer. You know, I was a bit, you know, uneasy," said Daniel.

The pressure in Daniel’s brain remained stable and doctors expected a full recovery. He spent a week in ICU. Two weeks later he was able to walk out of the hospital. Even still, he would spend the next three months resting with very limited physical activity - time he would use to refocus his priorities, including his faith in God.

"So, you know, I went back and fell back into the Bible. And as I read more and more, you know, you just want more and more. It's the Living Water, you know. God is our Father. He covers me. That's how I felt God was then at the time. That's where I found my peace." 

Shawn: What was God saying to you as you studied? 

“He was saying, 'Hey, you need Me.' You know. Uh, if-if you look at my past track record, it's up and down, left and right, and uh, you know, it's just like, 'Put your eyes back on Me, and uh put Me in your life every day.' So every day now uh I have to read, and it's what my spirit wants, and my soul wants it. It needs it," said Daniel.

Through prayer and God’s guidance, Daniel got his priorities in order.

“What kind of prayer that I hope you do and that God probably hopes you do, is you go and – go in your closet, go in somewhere and you spend time with the Lord, deep in prayer. Pray from your soul, from your heart, you know. And that's exactly what I did, I sought the Lord as hard as I could when I got hurt," said Daniel.

After three months, Daniel had recovered. Now he was ready to begin his journey back to the mound. He was enjoying an impressive return to triple-A baseball. Two months later he received the call he’d been hoping for from his manager Stubby Clap.  

“Stubby goes, 'You know, so how would your family like to watch you go pitch in St. Louis?' And I was like, 'They would love it.' And he's like, 'Alright, well, they're gonna need you up. And you're gonna be going up tomorrow.' And I got excited. I go over there, and I pick up Stubby and I spin him around and stuff. And uh it was – it was a great time," said Daniel.

Daniel became a St. Louis Cardinal in 2018. Today, he is married to Jenn, and in addition to their son Casen, they also have a daughter, Sofia. In his new book, One-Line Drive, Daniel chronicles how his faith fueled his comeback from a life-threatening injury to pitching in the major leagues.

“If I look back my own plan was go to Arizona, pitch three good years there, sign as a junior, first rounder, you know, team wants me, couple years in the minor leagues, big leagues. Go pitch my butt off in the big leagues. That was the easy route. But God had a completely different plan for me. He probably saw, this guy's mind's not right, we need to get him going through all these different hoops and stuff to -- you know, it's all little things here. And without that path, I wouldn't know what I know to this day. And I might not be where I am in my faith to this day. And praise the Lord for putting me through that," said Daniel.

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