The St. Paul Saints have resigned the reigning American Association Player of the Year, Vinny DiFazio. DiFazio, who hasn’t had your typical route through professional baseball, spent the majority of his career in the Texas Rangers organization. Prior to being drafted, he encountered health problems that nearly derailed his career before it got started. In the midst of his first year at the University of Alabama, DiFazio was recovering from knee surgery. During that time he also encountered pain in his shoulder, a pain he told his dad, he’d never encountered before. A trip to the doctor would change his life forever.
Early on the medical staff suggested Lou Gehrig’s disease. They had an extremely difficult time determining what was causing the pain. Prior to his knee surgery, DiFazio received a tetanus shot that was never recorded in his medical records. An adverse reaction to the shot almost ended his career. It turned out to be Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, also known as brachial neuritis, which paralyzed him from the neck to the waist. The syndrome affects 1.64 out of 100,000 people.” Finally, after two years of rehab he returned to ‘Bama and was eventually drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 12th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft.
It really takes something special deep down to deal with a life-altering moment and come back from it. That desire to succeed has followed DiFazio on the ball field. Six years in to his professional career, he has yet to advance past High A. Significant injuries (tore oblique, broken hand, broken wrist) put his career on hold for a couple years, but thankfully Independent baseball exists. Up until 2015, DiFazio never hit higher than .278 and never hit more than 12 home runs. Finally injury free his true potential was available for all to see. In 86 games for the Saints, he hit .361 (1st in the league) with 17 home runs (fourth in the league), drove in 82 (first in the league), and compiled an OBP of 1.059. Deserving of POY honours could be a massive understatement.
“Vinny had an incredible season,” said Saints Manager George Tsamis. “He came into last season competing for the starting job and ended up being Player of the Year. He is a great leader and definitely a guy you want on your team.”
It’s still uncertain if he will sign an MLB contract, but even If that doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. DiFazio has been through things we can only read about. Not getting signed to a professional contract will probably motivate him to exceed everyone’s expectations and make 2016 another season to remember. Gonna be tough, but he has beaten insurmountable odds before.