"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt.
That quote from Eleanor Roosevelt rings true in our lives. Nobody knows that better than Mark Appel. Appel made his MLB debut Wednesday night, June 29th, 2022. Appel was the number one draft pick for the Houston Astros back in 2013. That's not a typo. I'm talking about almost 10 years ago. There are a lot of things that have happened since 2013.
If we talk about the NBA, Anthony Bennett was the number one draft pick in 2013. He's now considered one of the biggest "draft busts" of all time. Pundits talk about him in a retrospective tone, as if 2013 is an era of bygones past. That's how long Appel has waited to get into an MLB game. Two questions immediately come to mind. How did it take this long? And how did he not wash out of baseball?
Perseverance and Faith
This should come as no surprise. At 30 years old (31 in two weeks) Appel is by far the oldest number one draft pick at the time of his debut. Appel was traded to the Phillies organization back in 2015, but due to injuries and ineffectiveness, Appel left baseball in 2018 before coming back to the Phillies organization in 2021. Appel's journey is told best in his own words. This is from his Twitter feed.
"It’s a story of something once dead being brought back to life… Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of playing in the MLB. Little league turned into high school, then into college and pro ball. Through it all, the dream was always alive and well. But at Christmas 2017, that dream died. I spent my offseason hoping my arm would bounce back after an injury-filled 2017 season. Yet, after months of work, I was in the same place—I couldn’t throw a baseball without pain. In a moment while spending time with family, I realized that my time was done. Being a big leaguer wasn’t my path. AAA was as far as I’d go. I lived almost all of 2018 as if I’d never play again. I traveled, worked odd jobs, and spent time with family. But through that time, God was working behind the scenes. While I was done, He was not."
There is more on his Twitter thread, which you can read in its entirety here. He literally left baseball entirely and gave up on his dream. I identify with this story a lot. It's hard to let go. It is even harder to get back on.
Appel speaks about how his faith means a lot to him. I understand in these times that faith can be divisive for many, but his literal faith in his ability and baseball dream should touch everyone. It should tell us all that nothing can stop you when you work hard enough, believe hard enough, and a little bit of fate is on your side.