TERRE HAUTE —
Josh Phegley is finally back doing what he wants to do … playing baseball.
Phegley will conclude a five-day “rehabilitation assignment” with the Bristol White Sox tonight, and is scheduled to make his return to the Winston-Salem Dash — the team he started with this season in the Chicago White Sox organization — on Sunday.
On the baseball diamond, either hitting or crouched behind the plate in his familiar position as catcher, Phegley always knows the score.
But the former Terre Haute North, Wayne Newton Post 346 and Indiana University standout was relegated to watching a different scoreboard the past two months — his numbers associated with a medical condition called ITP Syndrome.
What is ITP Syndrome? In layman’s terms, a seriously low blood platelet count.
With just six games under his belt in mid-April, Phegley began noticing some red dots on his back. Soon after, he incurred a huge bruise on his leg from absorbing a foul tip — a normal hazard for a catcher.
“The red dots were blood capillaries rupturing because my blood was so thin,” Phegley learned later. “The bruise on my leg was the last straw. It grew to eight to 10 inches in diameter, just from a foul ball. I had blood work run and my platelet count was dangerously low.”
Phegley explained a normal blood platelet count runs between 150,000 and 350,000. When diagnosed, his platelet count was only 1,000.
“I was admitted to the hospital right then,” he stated.
After an initial stay in the hospital, his condition has gradually improved through medication, a series of IV treatments and weekly injections.
“They ruled out the scary stuff, so that was a big relief. It was just a malfunction of my own system. Any virus that came along, whatever it might be, my body just reacted wrongly,” he observed.
On a positive note, he needed just two IV treatments — administered in two-week intervals — to complete a one-month cycle. He is still receiving weekly injections, describing them as “not a real hassle.”
“They’ve finally got the numbers stabilized. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Monday. So I hope to get the green light for the rest of the year.”
One tough part of his time spent on the shelf was not being able to work out, despite not feeling poorly during the entire process.
“It was a month-and-a-half without workouts, so it was hard to stay in shape,” he noted.
Being away from the baseball routine was tough, too, saying “it was mentally taxing [not playing].
“Doctor’s appointments kept me from traveling with the team on road trips, so then I would just hang out [in Winston-Salem],” he mentioned. “I would see all the guys when we were at home … and I room with two of our pitchers in my apartment. So I still felt I was a part of the team.”
Phegley was pleased with the support of the White Sox organization, saying, “They took care of me pretty well. They extended all their resources, so I knew I was a priority to the organization.”
Since returning with Bristol, Phegley has played every day — designated hitter on Tuesday, catch five innings on Wednesday, catch seven innings on Thursday. He was slated to DH on Friday, then catch the entire game today.
In his final outing with Bristol today, Phegley (supplemental 1st round draft pick in 2009) expects to be the battery mate of former Indiana State pitcher Jake Petricka. Petricka (2nd round draft pick earlier this week) will be making his first pro start.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit,” he said. “I asked him if he knew Nick Ciolli and Brady Shoemaker and he said he played with them last year. Haven’t seen him throw yet, but will catch him [today]. Seems to have an even head on him … pretty cool and laid back.”
As for the rest of the season, Phegley is thrilled to be heading back to Winston-Salem.
“We already clinched the first-half title. So we already have a playoff bid and the pressure is off. But I still want to win and help this club as much as I can.”
Phegley wished to extend a thank you to all the people who showed support — whether by phone, e-mail, text or prayers — to him, his parents and grandparents.
“I’m finally getting back to normal. I want to play the rest of the season for all those people.”