FORT MYERS, Fla. A little over a year ago, Ryan Westmoreland was getting ready to begin his second season of professional baseball. A 2009 New York-Penn League All-Star for the Lowell Spinners, named by Baseball America as the Red Sox No. 1 prospect and the NYPLs top prospect, Westmoreland had every reason to be excited for the start of a new season.
But in early March 2010, he was diagnosed with a cavernous malformation in his brain. He required surgery, which was performed in Arizona and initially took his sight, his hearing in one ear, and his motor functions. His future was uncertain. His baseball future was barely a consideration then.
I tried to not let that cross my mind, but it was kind of inevitable, he said. I had the days where I was really down on myself, and I said, You know, am I going to play again? I was really unsure about the future . . . I just really tried to limit the days that I got down on myself.
But he is back playing baseball now. Hes not ready for games yet. But, at the minor-league camp at the player development complex, Westmoreland works out, just as all the minor-leaguers do.
I feel great, he said. Just to be on the field again and be doing baseball activities is one thing. But to be doing it at a level that I'm doing it now, at a really advanced level. I feel like I'm performing pretty well in the cages and on the field there. So, overall, I feel great about not only being on the field but about performing as well.
Hes doing just about everything, he said taking batting practice, throwing, running required of a baseball player. Just as important, hes doing it with the other players and not by himself.
I'm not to the caliber I was last year, he said. I'm doing sprints, doing some long-distance stuff as far as condition. I'm doing most of the things that every other player is doing. And hitting, I go about it in a way that every player does their own hitting. Everybody does batting practice. It's just good to just be able to fit into the mold of all the professional baseball players and not kind of seeing the one odd guy out taking batting practice by himself now. I'm taking it with the team and everybody. It's a good feeling.
His short-term goals are simple.
Immediate goal is just all these little things, he said. Just trying to smooth them out, the running, the hitting, the eyesight, everything. I'm just trying to smooth them out and get them to where I know was last year prior to all the symptoms. So really no long-term goals, just short day-to-day goals that if I keep succeeding, the day ahead is going to lead what I want.
He still gets fatigued. He still has occasional problems with his balance.
But, I started out with basically nothing and now I'm at a very advanced level, he said. And the Red Sox staff and the doctors were all impressed.
He doesnt know when hell be ready to play in games again. He has no timetable for that, but he knows it will take care of itself.
I just feel like when I'm ready to play, when I feel like I'm going to be able to perform well, I'm going to go out there and play, he said. The goal at the end of the day is always get to Fenway. If it happens, it happens. If not, it doesn't. But, of course, the sooner the better. I'm just hoping for the best every day and if I play, it's going to be meant to be. If not, it's also meant to be. So, we'll see what happens.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen