Westmoreland was on the fast track to be the next legendary Red Sox left fielder before his injury.
Ryan Westmoreland, once a highly-regarded prospect for the Boston Red Sox before experiencing a debilitating injury, announced his retirement on Wednesday, according to the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson.
The story was confirmed in a tweet by The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham:
One-time highly touted #RedSox prospect Ryan Westmoreland, who career was derailed by brain surgery, has officially retired— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 6, 2013
A high school star, Westmoreland was selected by Boston in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and accepted a $2 million signing bonus to pass on an scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University.
The left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Westmoreland looked like a future star in his one professional season, playing left field for the short-season Lowell Spinners in 2009. He appeared in 60 games and hit .296 with seven home runs, 35 RBI and 19 stolen bases in as many attempts.
His stellar debut prompted Baseball America’s Jim Callis to name him Boston’s top prospect for 2010.
Unfortunately, prior to the 2010 season, doctors discovered Westmoreland had a cavernous malformation of the brain and performed emergency surgery on the prospect.
While the condition can be life threatening in rare cases, survivors can experience neurological side effects impacting things like vision and mobility. Westmoreland’s surgery was successful, but he was impacted by those conditions and forced to cut his playing career short.
Despite the challenges, he was determined to not abandon his playing career. He underwent vigorous treatment and therapy in an effort to reclaim his career. His inspirational story was captured in a poignant segment by ESPN’s E:60.
According to ESPNBoston’s Joe McDonald, Westmoreland suffered a setback last summer that required an additional surgery. When asked what his future plans were, he was decidedly less optimistic, telling McDonald, “We’re going to take it slow again and kind of play it by ear and see how I’m feeling.”
Although Westmoreland continued to train at Boston’s facilities and keep in close contact with the team and their doctors, he was never able to take the field under game conditions.
MacPherson wrote that the 22-year-old emailed a statement about his retirement to members of the Boston media, bravely stating:
With a clear mind and heart, as well as the unwavering support and friendship of my family, friends, agent(s), doctors, therapists and the Boston Red Sox, I have decided to voluntarily retire as a professional baseball player. Although it is a very difficult decision for me, it has become clear that the neurological damage caused by the most recent cavernous malformation and surgery leaves me with physical challenges that make it impossible to play the game at such a high level.
Having to give up the game he loves at such an early age must be tough for the former prospect, but another quote provided by MacPherson showed he’s refusing to let it damper his spirit in whatever he decides to do in the future.
In my heart, I know that I have worked as hard as one possibly could to overcome the obstacles presented by this unfortunate series of events. It is with that confidence that I am comfortable turning the page, and searching for "the reason” that this has happened. I believe that there is a plan for me that will utilize my experiences, however painful some may have been, to do something special in my life. It is time for me to find that path, and to pursue it with the same focus and effort that I pursued the dream of playing professional baseball.
It’s easy to feel sad for Westmoreland and the early end of his baseball career. However, it’s clear he isn’t feeling bad for himself, so Boston fans should congratulate him on what he was able to accomplish and wish him well for his future, which should be bright, given his work ethic and determination.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference