Most athletes would not consider themselves blessed to have gone through injuries. Spokane right-hander David Ledbetter, though, has already proven that he is not most athletes.
Ledbetter, who has dominated Northwest League hitters this season, credits injuries he sustained in college to his early professional success. Simply put, the recovery process helped him learn the thresholds of his body and how to limit any further damage he could do to it.
Knowing the differences between having a muscle tighten up in a good way, through lifting, or a bad way, through cramping, has been key to his development as an athlete.
"I'm someone who is go, go, go all the time, but sometimes you have to learn to pull back the reins a little bit," Ledbetter said. "During workouts, if I know I have a start the next day, and I have a total body lift, I'm not going to go do as much as I possibly can."
His injuries weren't exactly minor ones. In his freshman year of college, at the same time his identical brother, Ryan (also drafted by the Rangers this season), was recovering from Tommy John surgery, David was hit by a truck, resulting in a torn ACL and concussion.
Those injuries, while "heartbreaking" as he put it, didn't slow him down too much. Ledbetter had surgery that December and was already back to training the following August.
His return was short-lived, though, because just one year later he required surgery on his right wrist, one of the most intricate parts of the human body. The recovery process that followed helped define how he would train for the rest of his career.
"It was cool to feel my wrist keep getting stronger," he said. "It taught me, how far can you go? When is enough, enough? There is a time when you have to pull back."
The 21-year-old is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in seven starts this season, and he credits the relationship he has with his parents and his wife for the strength he has found to continually move forward. As they all remain back home in Indiana, he's able to keep in touch via phone and Skype, and does so often.
His wife, Elizabeth, is the source of much of his strength and support.
"She only stands 5-foot-2, but she has the heart of a lion," Ledbetter said. "When I talk to her, it makes everything better."
Certainly not to be forgotten, his Spokane teammates have been a huge part of his journey thus far. Being so far away from home, Ledbetter has developed a close camaraderie with the rest of the team.
"They've been making the plays -- all I've been doing is throwing strikes," he said. "My teammates are the best part of this whole experience."
As he continues his journey through the Rangers organization, Ledbetter said he will certainly continue to focus on the location, movement and velocity of his pitches. More than anything, though, he'll continue to push his body to the limit -- at least as much as he is comfortable with.
"When it gets burning, that's when you have to go more to really get the gain," he said.
Heading to the postseason: The Everett AquaSox wrapped up the first-half North Division title on Sunday, edging the Vancouver Canadians by one game. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes also guaranteed themselves a postseason appearance, clinching the South two days earlier.
All-Star cast: The Northwest League has released its list of players who will participate in the All-Star Game on Aug 6. Salem-Keizer leads the South Division with nine participants, with Boise a close second at eight. In the North, Vancouver leads the way with eight players, while Everett had seven named. The teams will be managed by the field staffs from Everett (North) and Boise (South).
He said it: "After the game we had no idea what was going on. Vancouver had to lose its game, it worked out, and the guys were fired up when we found out. It was a lot of fun. … It was a little different way, but it's never bad news." -- Everett shortstop Jack Reinheimer to the Everett Herald on how the AquaSox clinched their first-half title.
Welcome aboard: Second overall pick Kris Bryant joined the Boise Hawks this past week from the Arizona League, notching two RBIs and a double in his first two games.
Who's hot, who's not: Boise third baseman Jacob Rogers has eight RBIs and two home runs in his last nine games. … Tri-City right-hander Shane Broyles has struck out nine while not allowing an earned run in his last 4 1/3 innings pitched. ... Salem-Keizer catcher Ty Ross has just three hits and one RBI in his last 26 at-bats. … Hillsboro righty Chase Stevens has allowed seven earned runs in his last 1 2/3 innings of work.