Previously Public Choice #1 Mark Appela month shy of his 31st birthday, made his debut on Wednesday night and provided a goalless ninth inning to hosts the Philadelphia Phillies.
At 30 years and 349 days old, Appel—whose baseball career has included a three-season absence from the sport—was the oldest previous general pick from the June draft (since 1965) at the time of his MLB debut.
The right-hander allowed one hit and scored the strike as the Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves 4-1.
“It’s very surreal,” Abel said.
Appel was named #1 overall by the Houston Astros in 2013 and was part of a business deal for Philadelphia in 2015. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, Appel left baseball in 2018 before returning to the Phillies organization in 2021.
Abel has spent the past two seasons promoting Double- and Triple-A for the Phillies. He has a 5-0 and 1.61 ERA record in 19 games with Lehigh Valley this season, and was promoted to the majors last Saturday.
The trip was part of what made Wednesday night so special, and Abel admitted he got very emotional when he came off the hill thinking about everything.
“Having perspective and remembering until just two or three years ago,” he said, according to MLB.com. “Even if I was just trying to get back, that was never a straight line to me. Even in this whole process, I was lost. I felt like there were times when I was hopeless, that this dream would never come true. I was choking on my tears.”
The moment was not wasted on his teammates.
“It was really cool to see it all culminate, running back inside from the parking lot,” Reese Hoskins He said. “You peeked at him a little bit before second base. Just a smile, right? You can’t keep it.”
One of the most decorated pitchers in NCAA history, Abel was ranked eighth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, but returned to Stanford in his first season and picked the Astros first in 2013, ahead of one place. Chris Bryant.
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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