By TIM HAYS
Of the Keizertimes
Caleb Simpson, 24-year-old Oklahoma native and pitcher for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, has gone through a lot of adversity to get him to where he is today.
Out of high school Simpson attended Seminole State Community College in Sanford, Fla. After two successful seasons behind the plate, Simpson signed to go play baseball at the University of Oklahoma. He didn’t quite get to the campus.
Simpson, who had been a catcher for his entire life, was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2013 as a right handed pitcher, just before he was set to start summer school in Norman.
“OU wanted me to be a pitcher, and I didn’t throw a single inning at Seminole State,” Simpson said. “I was drafted as a pitcher, and I figured that minor leagues is all about development. In Division-1 baseball, if you don’t pitch well, you don’t play.”
In 2013, Simpson had a major setback. “I slipped a disk in my back. That knocked me out of my rookie-ball season.”
In 2014 he once again missed time on the field. Due to a strained UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament), also known as the Tommy John Ligament, Simpson had to have surgery on his pitching elbow.
“I had to have a bone marrow transfusion. They took bone marrow out of my hip and put into my elbow, forcing me to miss the 2014 season as well.”
Looking forward to 2015, Simpson was ready to rock and roll on the mound; except for one problem.
“The bone marrow never fused and the surgery didn’t work.”
Simpson opted to have Tommy John surgery to replace his injured UCL in his elbow. This 12-18-month injury forced him to miss all of the 2015 season.
The 2016 season is Simpson’s first full season in which he has been able to play since getting drafted three years ago.
“Opening day for me was a pretty big deal. This has been the best-worse three years of my life. Getting to where I am at, and finally getting back on the field, there just isn’t anything like it.”
Simpson pitched one inning and recorded two strike outs without allowing a run.
Simpson’s ability to bounce back has come through some wisdom of his high school coach.
During his recovery time after Tommy John surgery, Simpson wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep playing and considered ending his career after all the wear-and-tear on his body.
“My coach told me that I had my whole life to be average. There are average people everywhere. I am a percent of a percent being in professional baseball. He just told me to gut it out, and here I am.”