- Tim Wheaton
In Episode 58, former major league baseball player David Newhan tells some remarkable stories. He fought through his minor league journey and when his shot for making a big league roster arrived, he made it impossible for them to put him back on the bench. When he had a horrific accident nearly 10 years ago, he fought, quite literally, for his life with that very same tenacity.
In October of 2016, Episodes 19 & 20 of the podcast featured my conversations with hall of fame baseball writer Ross Newhan. Yes. You’re making the right connection there: Ross is David’s dad. When I sat with Ross, the hope was always that he and David would become a Father/Son package on Daddy Unscripted at some point. That time has finally arrived.
David had unique access to professional baseball players from a young age. He was born into a home with two baseball-loving parents and his interest in baseball never wavered. While his dad was working over the long and grueling seasons, David was busy bettering himself as a young baseball player. And he did it well. So well that he went on to play in college.
Following a season at Cypress College, David went on to play for Georgia Tech in 1993. His teammates there included Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Jay Payton. To complete his collegiate play, he spent the next two years back in California, putting up huge numbers at Pepperdine University. He was drafted in the amateur draft later that year by the Oakland A’s organization.
David spent 3 years in the A’s minor league system before being traded to the Padres. His career then went the way of many minor league journeymen: he has played at the minor and major league level for 10 different baseball organizations. It was with the Orioles that David saw his most significant success. In 2004, during a call-up to the big league club, he took the baseball world by storm. He even had a 20-game hit streak.
One of the moments a lot of baseball people may remember most would be a hit off of Pedro Martinez in Fenway Park. He drove the ball deep off of the center field wall, Johnny Damon fielded it and threw it toward the infield. Out of nowhere, and for completely unknown reasons, Manny Ramirez cut off the throw going to the cut-off man. In a true display of "Manny Being Manny", the oddball play allowed for Newhan to get an inside-the-park home run off of one of the best pitchers to play the game.
His career hit some turbulence in the seasons to follow; some significant injuries did not help. In 2009, David was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as a player-coach for their Triple-A squad. That summer, while at his home in Oceanside, CA, everything would change.
David’s re-telling of the fateful day surfing in the ocean brought chills, even though I am no stranger to the story. Remarkable, amazing, astounding, unbelievable and miraculous: all of these words come to mind to describe what took place. As he dove unsuspectingly into a sandbar and fractured his C2 vertebrae. The injury is known by doctors as "the Hangman’s fracture" — it’s the same injury that actor Christopher Reeve suffered that left him a quadriplegic.
It is truly almost insane to think that David was not only somehow able to keep from drowning in the ocean, but he made it to shore and was able to walk home. If that’s not enough to wow you, consider the fact that in 2011 David accepted an invitation to spring training with the San Diego Padres.
After spending some time as the assistant hitting coach with the Detroit Tigers, David’s path has brought him right back to California. He is about to start his third season as the Angels’ minor league infield coordinator. I would be shocked if David isn’t managing a big league team at some point in his career.
I encourage anyone to complete the circle by listening to both of the Newhan generations’ tales of life. It’s very interesting to hear the connections between their stories. I know that sounds so obvious that I must be dumb for even pointing it out. But, with both of their professions being rooted in baseball, it means their time away from home is and was significant. So, it was really encouraging to hear about how much time they still managed to spend together and the strong bonds that were created.
This episode is sponsored by Letco Jewelry. Make sure you check them out on their Instagram page @LetcoJewelry
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