Devin Smeltzer’s debut comes with an even better backstory
By Chris Schad
The Minnesota Twins pitcher didn’t get the win in his major league debut on Tuesday night, but his path to the major leagues made for a memorable outing.
For Minnesota Twins pitcher Devin Smeltzer, his major league debut against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night had to stir up some nerves. After being acquired in the Brian Dozier trade last August, the 23-year old made a fast rise through the Twins system and found himself getting the call after the team placed Michael Pineda on the injured list earlier Tuesday afternoon.
For a pitcher that had posted a 3-2 record and a 1.15 ERA between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Rochester this season, getting the call up to the majors so quickly would make even the most emotionless of starters start to sweat. However, Smeltzer’s path to majors came from more than just a stat line.
When Smeltzer was nine years old, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. During his recovery from the disease, he had the chance to meet one of his heroes in Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. Three years later, Smelter would make a full recovery and has since been in remission since 2012.
Smeltzer went on to have a star prep career and was eventually drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. It would just so happen that Utley’s path had led him to the Dodgers as well after being traded to Los Angeles in 2015. When Smeltzer was an invite to spring training in three years later it gave him the chance to reunite with his childhood hero.
In addition, Smeltzer has sought out to make a difference for those who are currently battling the disease. He has begun selling “Catch Cancer” t-shirts where the proceeds have gone to help Katie’s Krusaders, who helped give Smeltzer a hand during his battle by helping offset the medical costs that aren’t covered by a family’s insurance.
That cause is sure to gain even more attention after his debut as he threw six shutout innings against the Brewers allowing just three hits and seven strikeouts. A debut like that should indicate that the left-hander has a bright future in the Twins organization and with a tremendous backstory, it should inspire others going through the same battle.