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Appel still dreams of pitching in big leagues

Mark Appel still dreams of the day when he pitches in a major league game.

Had things worked as planned, he would have made his debut a few years ago, and would potentially have a Cy Young Award and multiple All-Star Game appearances on his resume.

As the first overall pick in the 2013 Draft, the Astros saw him as their future ace.

Instead, there have been multiple bumps in the road and in December of 2015, Appel was traded to Philadelphia as an insignificant piece of the deal that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston. The bumps in his career got so bad that following the 2017 season - as a 25-year-old - Appel walked away from baseball.

In 2021, unexpectedly, Appel contacted the Phillies to see if he could come back to the game. It says something about Appel’s talents and his reputation within the organization that the Phillies welcomed him back.

“I feel fortunate to be here and still playing. I’ve had a kind of crazy career and was out of the game for almost four years, so I have a different perspective,” said Appel, who is now 30. “But I also want to play well, and I want to get to the big leagues, and I want to play for a lot longer and I know I need to have success to do that.

“It’s a day-by-day mentality, show up every day, do your best, have fun and work on the things that I need to work on.”

The successes were rare last season in his time with both Reading and Lehigh Valley. The Phillies transitioned him from his normal starting role to the bullpen and Appel finished with a 6.06 ERA between the two levels, prompting speculation that he might again step away. Instead, Appel returned this season as a member of the IronPigs bullpen.

So far, the results have been good with Appel allowing just one earned run in five innings for a 1.80 ERA with no walks and five strikeouts this season.

Appel points to the love and encouragement of his family that has allowed him to continue pursuing his dream. He has kept everything in perspective along the way and when he looks back over the long journey, he realizes a constant.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that God is good. Faith is a big part of my life, and I see God as someone who is sovereign over it all,” Appel said. “Being a top pick and having struggles and leaving the game and then getting to come back, I feel really blessed to play. I am really thankful that God has given me every part of it.”

While his perspective on his career and life have changed over the years, his dream of reaching the majors hasn’t. It’s still there and still helping to drive him, but he realizes that it doesn’t define him or his success in life.

“I don’t know what my emotions will be like in that moment, but I know it will be fun because I have been having a lot of fun lately,” said Appel of the times when he imagines stepping on to a Major League mound for the first time. “I know my family will be there, so it will be good no matter what happens.”

THREE’S A CROWD ... When the season opened, center field was a very shallow spot in the Phillies organization. Odubel Herrera and Mickey Moniak went on the IL at the major league level, and Lehigh Valley started the year with Dalton Guthrie, a 26-year-old with limited time playing the position, starting for them. Since then, the Phillies re-signed center fielder Roman Quinn and assigned him to Lehigh Valley. Herrera is on a rehab assignment with the IronPigs as he works his way back to the majors. All of this happens as Guthrie was playing surprisingly well defensively and hitting .395 (15-for-38) with the IronPigs.

HITTIN’ SEASON ... Lehigh Valley set a team record with a nine-run inning against Worcester on Sunday. The Pigs scored nine in the top of the sixth inning as part of a 19-11 win. Lehigh Valley also tied a team record by sending 13 batters to the plate in the inning. Yairo Munoz became the 11th IronPigs player to score four runs in a game, also tying a team record.

A TALENTED SINGER ... Jeff Singer was a major leaguer for one day. The Phillies put pitcher Corey Knebel on the COVID list because he had flu-like symptoms and had to go through testing. Singer was summoned from Lehigh Valley for the first time in his career, but when Knebel tested negative, Singer was placed on waivers one day after joining the team to remove him from the 40-man roster. When he cleared the process, he was assigned back to the Pigs. The 28-year-old was born in Philadelphia and attended Holy Cross High School in Delran, New Jersey, before going to Monmouth University and Rutgers University.