It sounds backwards, especially for a first baseman, but Corey Zangari wouldn't be the player he is without Tommy John surgery.
While participating in pregame drills before the Spring Training opener in 2017, he felt a sharp pain in his elbow and was sent to the trainer's room. He'd torn a ligament in his throwing arm.
"Honestly, I've never had any arm pain in my life. It was just one of those freak accidents," said Zangari, who reportedly could touch 98 mph as a pitcher in high school. "There was a weird feeling in my arm and I got light-headed and I stopped throwing."
To some, Zangari fell off the radar after that season-ending operation, especially because the surgery came after a year of struggles in 2016. It took toiling in obscurity for him to grow up and rediscover an affinity for the game.
2018 Minor League milestones
The White Sox prospect demonstrated that on Friday, slugging a career-high three homers and driving in five runs to power Rookie-level Great Falls to an 15-11 victory over Orem at Centene Stadium at Legion Park.
"The immaturity came out a little bit and I let it get the best of me [during my earlier struggles]," Zangari said. "Rehab with Tommy John has helped me out tremendously, and physically. I try not to worry about anything like that or look at stats. I try and go out and play ball, have fun, because anything can happen. [The injury] taught me that [when] it took the game away from me.
"It was going to happen one day. It took [Tommy John] to lighten my eyes with that."
After missing all of last season, Zangari's hitting .265 with a 1.074 OPS and seven homers in 13 games with the Voyagers.
The first baseman is more spry than he's ever been after shedding 40 pounds during his rehabilitation. Eating healthier and diligent work with White Sox assistant strength coach Ibrahim Rivera helped him accomplish that.
"He was very hard on me, and I wanted him to be," Zangari said. "I told him, 'Don't give up on me.' We got together and every single day was hard. ... I couldn't play, but I figured I'd work on something I could. Getting weight off was something I needed and my body feels amazing right now."
A 2015 sixth-round Draft pick, Zangari had been in the White Sox Top 30 prospects list early in his career. He was named a 2015 Arizona League postseason All-Star after hitting .323/.356/.492 and started the following season in Class A Kannapolis, where he put up a .166/.247/.314 slash line before being assigned to Great Falls.
Friday's showing was the 21-year-old's fourth career multi-homer game and second this week -- he muscled a pair of long balls in Tuesday's 6-1 triumph over Orem.
"He has unbelievable power," Great Falls hitting coach Eric Richardson said. "It's just getting him on the right track and having him believe in that he has that. He shows it a lot. He shows it in BP. He shows it in early work. But for him to display it like that on the field when the lights are on, that's really impressive."
After striking out in his first at-bat Friday, the Oklahoma native launched his first roundtripper of the evening, a solo shot to left field, in the third inning on a first-pitch offering from Owlz starter Cristopher Molina. Zangari walked in his next at-bat, then belted a 2-2 pitch from Luis Alvarado to left-center in the sixth. He completed the hat trick an inning later by launching a three-run jack to left-center off Ben Morrison.
"[Morrison] actually got me pretty good. I didn't barrel that ball up," he said., "But, thankfully, we had a little bit of wind tonight and it turned out well."
Gameday box score
It wasn't rounding the bases after his third home run that provided Zangari the most joy, but rather, the clubhouse celebration afterward.
In the third inning, the Voyagers had fallen behind, 10-0, but Zangari's first homer sparked a comeback.
"He comes back on when we're down, 10-1, and he says, 'Let's win this game,'" Richardson said. "The guys kind of looked at him like he was crazy. He goes back up and hits another home run, and he says, 'We're going to win this game.'
"The guys kind of rallied around him and I think he's got the guys' trust now."
As after every Voyagers win, the team's clubhouse manager, Adam Gutierrez, fired up the disco ball, revved up the fog machine and blasted music. After missing all that time and rehabbing at the White Sox facility in Glendale, Arizona, Zangari cherishes these moments more than anything else.
"I'm just trying to show these guys how fun it is in pro ball, and they're making a huge impact on me," Zangari said. "It's meant a ton and just the camaraderie -- I can't explain how good the camaraderie is. It's huge."
Ian Dawkins was 3-for-5 with a double, Lenyn Sosa chipped in two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored and Romy Gonzalez homered and scored three times for Great Falls.
No. 2 Angels prospect Kevin Maitan thumped a two-run homer for Orem but left with an apparent injury after beating a relay throw on a potential double play grounder in the second.