PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A.J. Puckett was a second-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2016 out of Pepperdine University.
A right-handed pitcher, Puckett has spent the entire 2017 season in Delaware as a member of the starting rotation for the Single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks.
“Just working with the coaching staff,” Puckett tells KYW Newsradio. “Working with my pitching coach, trying to make this last stride the last part of the season, doing whatever I can to try and help the team win. Hopefully, we can make a stride toward the playoffs.”
The 22-year-old Puckett has enjoyed a solid season for the Blue Rocks, going 8-7 in 17 starts with a 4.18 ERA.
It’s not unusual for a pitcher to have had to overcome a significant medical issue by this point in a career. But for Puckett, the hurdle he had to get over wasn’t a sore shoulder or even Tommy John surgery.
“I had brain surgery,” Puckett says. “My sophomore year of high school into my junior year. Happened in San Diego during a baseball tournament, just a couple of us kids in the back of a car. It’s kind of just one of those unfortunate things that happened when I was younger.”
An accidental blow to the head led to the surgery. Puckett at one point had to be put in a medically-induced coma.
“I think I was in the coma only for a couple of days, not too long,” he says. “I was in ICU for longer than that just because I was on some pretty strong pain killers. I think I wasn’t really coherent for like a week until I really kind of woke up and was realizing what was going on.
“I was just blessed with the support staff I had at the hospital in San Diego and then my parents being there as well,” Puckett adds. “Just very thankful to walk away from that and just continued doing what I love playing sports.”
Puckett is one of the top prospects in the Kansas City organization and with that scary medical journey behind him, these days he’s just focusing on getting better on the mound.
“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to going out there, pound the strike zone, get outs and get wins,” Puckett says.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleonkyw.