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Padres prospect Cumberland retiring

Rare neurological condition halts former first-rounder's return
March 12, 2012
Drew Cumberland, a Padres first-rounder in 2007, has decided to retire from baseball after a rare neurological condition resurfaced this spring.

The 23-year-old shortstop missed all of last season after being diagnosed with bilateral vestibulopathy, and although he had hoped to return for the 2012 season, the ongoing symptoms forced him to call an end to his four-year pro career.

Cumberland's condition, the result of a severe concussion sustained as a freshman defensive back on his high school football team, damaged portions of both inner ears that control balance. Combined with further concussions, it also caused recurring migraine headaches and vision difficulties.

Selected by the Padres 46th overall in the 2007 Draft out of Pace High School in Florida, Cumberland appeared in 25 games in his rookie season and 56 more across two levels the following year.

In 2009, Cumberland batted .293 with 25 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs in 77 games for Class A Fort Wayne. In 2010, the infielder set career highs in batting average (.350), RBIs (41), runs (68), homers (seven) and steals (21) between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio.

He ranked among the California League leaders in multiple offensive categories at the time he was promoted, resulting in his selection to the Futures Game and being named by as the best-performing shortstop in the system.

Despite suffering a lacerated knee in July, Cumberland entered the 2011 season as a key part of the team's future. Baseball America ranked him as its No. 9 prospect, but he was shut down for the year before ever taking the field.

Cumberland stepped away from the game last fall to pursue a coaching position with Fort Wayne, where he played in 2009. However, he decided to return to the diamond after tests performed in early November at the Sports Concussion Institute in Los Angeles revealed it might be possible to control the condition.

"It looks like I've got a second chance," Cumberland told in January. "I just want to run with it."

Cumberland had been at the Padres' Spring Training facility in Peoria for 15 days taking part in the organization's annual minicamp for some of the top prospects, before suffering setbacks last week.

"I talked to Cumby [Sunday] and he said that his symptoms had returned and he just wasn't going to be able to continue," Randy Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting, told

"I told him to take as much time as he needs ... but I don't think that the outcome is going to change."

Friend and former teammate Blake Tekotte called Cumberland's retirement "heartbreaking."

"He's been dealing with it for so long. ... It's such a tough situation for him," Tekotte said. "But you never knew when it was going to pop up. And he's never one to make excuses why he can't play. He worked so hard for this."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to