(KPIX 5) — Matt Imhof made Mission High School history when he was drafted by the Phillies in 2014. According to Baseball-reference.com, no player from the high school in Fremont has been selected higher.
“It’s every father’s dream to have your son play professional baseball,” said Mike Imhof who hoped his son would make it big as he developed into dominant pitcher at Cal Poly.
The Phillies gave the lefty a substantial signing bonus and released him to their farm system in Florida.
“There was an alligator in the visitor’s dugout one day,” said Imhof who never could fully get used to life in Clearwater, Florida.
But today Imhof is back with the Cal Poly Mustangs and the reason is far more menacing than the stray alligator that wandered out of the Gulf Coast swamp.
“Scoreless ninth. One, two, three,” he said of his final appearance as a professional baseball player in June. Imhof ended his night like any other – with a stretching band in the trainer’s room.
The bands are designed to slowly cool down the muscles in an arm. They are ubiquitous around every baseball field, but Imhof’s band failed in the worst possible way.
“The hook that my band was attached to came off the wall and hit me on the inside of the nose.”
Imhof broke bones all over his face and sustained significant damage to the right eye. He was rushed to a specialist in Miami where doctors told him that it was very likely he would never see on his right side again.
After an attempt to save the eye, it was eventually removed and replaced with a prosthetic one. He moved back to his parent’s house in Fremont to try and make sense of his new world.
“I remember walking through the airport, not being able to see people on my right side,” Imho said of the adjustment.
“We were speechless,” said Mike Imhof who tried not to consider what the accident meant for his son’s budding career. “Baseball was second at that point,” he said.
Imhof eventually adapted to the blindness on his right side. He’s able to lead a normal life, but found things a bit more difficult with a baseball in his hand.
“Catching was tough with depth perception, and picking up a target,” he said.
Doctors told Imhof he could try to resume his professional career, but he looked at his situation with some pragmatism. In January he told the Phillies he wanted to retire.
“I saw it as something that was going to take me 6-8 years to get to the level I wanted. I didn’t want to waste that time on something that seemed like an unlikely chance,” he said without doubt.
“He didn’t want to be the guy who battled for five years to maybe pitch an inning in the big leagues,” his dad said.
So instead of pursuing his dream on the diamond, Imhof is taking care of business in the classroom. He’ll graduate from Cal Poly in June and is an assistant pitching coach for the Mustangs.
“There’s a part of you that feels a little robbed,” said Imhof who is on good terms with the Phillies. He would not say if he’s considering legal action against the organization.
“I could be angry. No one would blame me,” he said. “I wanted to move forward the best way I could.”