Nationals 22 year old pitching prospect Patrick Arnold sat down recently and talked with TNW about a number of topics including his bout with cancer as a child as well as how his recovery from Tommy John surgery is going. Arnold spent last season pitching with the Hagertown Suns where he put up a 4.27 era in 46.1 innings of relief pitching.
Like most professional baseball players Patrick started playing ball at a young age but what makes his story a little different than most is the obstacles he had to overcome along the way to being drafted.
Patrick was born with a cancerous tumor and at only 6 weeks of age had his fist surgery but that was not the end of his bout with cancer though. At the age of 13 Patrick was again diagnosed as having cancerous tumors and by this he had already been playing baseball for little while.
So Patrick everyone knows that the path to becoming a professional baseball player is not an easy one and that is without any of the extra adversities you had to face growing up. Can you tell us about your experience with cancer and how you managed to get through it and still end up where you are today as a player?
“Well I was born with a Neuroblastoma (cancerous tumor) on my pelvic bone. It was noticed and resected when I was six weeks old. At age three, I had a scar tissue build up in my intestine. Then at age twelve I started having pain in my legs and lower back, doctors thought it was just growing pains. A year later, my legs locked up and I couldn’t really walk. Did a MRI, come to find out I had four tumors lodge in my spinal cord into my tailbone, from L4 to S4, with another tumor on my pelvic bone(total of five tumors). A doctor in Tampa, Fl, did a biopsy on the tumor in my pelvic and determined it was benign. But he was not comfortable to resect any of the tumors. DR Kosnick from Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, removed the heads of L4, L5 and removed 50-70 % of my tailbone to resect the four tumors. He left the other tumor on my pelvic cause it was benign and would be a tricky surgery. I get a MRI every year to check the tumor on my Pelvic to make sure it doesn’t grow or anything. The night of my back surgery, I was told I’m not allowed to play football anymore and may not be able to play baseball. At thirteen, you don’t understand how hard it is to make it to the big leagues, you just think Ill play in the big leagues one day no big deal. I was so upset I got up and walked to the bathroom to prove nothing will stop me. The next morning on ESPN, the METS had a highlight of a kid eating an ice cream cone and I really wanted one. My dad was going out for a smoke so I decided to go with him. I got my IV and walked down stairs and outside and ate my ice cream cone and he said “Have you ever thought about what else you wanna do besides playing baseball?’ I said, ” That’s the only thing I’m good at and ever will be good at!” And now I’m chasing that dream.”
From a baseball aspect what person or people whether it be another player, a coach or a family member has had the biggest influence in making you the player you are today?
“My dad and mom, Pat and Mona Arnold. Dad taught me when you do something no matter what it is you give your all and bust your butt as hard as you can to be the greatest. Do whatever it takes he always tells me. And mom always tells me stay humble and remember your roots, and be thankful cause you shouldn’t be playing ball (talking about my cancer and surgeries)”
As a baseball player what was your greatest memory as a youth and what has been your greatest memory to this point as a pro ball player?
“umm, Greatest memory has to be my junior year in high school when I hit a walk off grand slam in sectionals to move on to the regional. it was the bottom of the 7th, runners on second and third two outs tied game, I’m on deck. Adam Vanhorn is up to hit, so I’m thinking he is either gonna win it, or we are going into extras. The coach and catcher get mixed up and ask the Intentional walk Adam thinking its me. Umpire asks the catcher you sure, he said yes. So Adam heads to first now I’m up, the count gets to 2-2 in a blink of an eye. I start thinking I’m gonna strike, kid threw a curve ball away and the rest is history. Greatest memory as a pro would be, playing with Pokey Reese for a few months in extended spring training. I remember he was playing second and I had a come backer and we turned two. I walked off the field thinking, “I just turned two with fricking Pokey Reese. I looked up to him when I was growing up.”
What type of pitcher are you and what is your mentality when you step on the mound?
“Now my motion has change, I have a free and easy arm action. But Mentality I think Strike everyone out. Before I step on the rubber I think execute the pitch to your best ability and strike them out. If I can be the best and get them all out, which I’m not going to strike everyone out, but if I try be the best I can be then it will help the team be the best.”
What has your rehab from Tommy John surgery been like for you and what all goes in to rehabbing from a Tommy John surgery?
“Its been a long road, it takes alot of time. From my elbow rehab to my hamstring rehab its a long process. You are in a sling for a week then you move into your brace for 6-8 weeks. Then its a ton of repetitions of all your exercises to build up your shoulder. Its a all day and all week type of rehab. Once you get the brace off, you start lifting and running along with all the rehab exercises. Then you get to the throwing which is what I’m just starting.”
So how is your arm feeling now and when are they thinking you will be ready to go again?
“My arm hasn’t felt this good in awhile, and we are looking at June or July hopefully. You never know with these things from what Ive been told.”
From the time you were drafted by the National in 2007 to now what is the biggest difference in you as a pitcher?
“I’m becoming a pitcher now, I use to be a thrower. Just put a number down and I’d throw it, The Nationals are teaching me the art of pitching.”
I know that some guys like run camps and clinics when they are not playing is that something you do or is that something you don’t really do at this point?
“I do lessons and work the Brandon Webb camp. That’s about it.”
Is there any charity or charities that you are part of that you wish to discuss?
“Was in the process of starting my own called ‘Leave no doubt” but was put on the back burner cause of my TJ surgery. Its gonna be a foundation that gives free Neuroblastoma screenings to families that might not be able to afford it. If you don’t catch a Neuroblastoma at the early stage, the chance of survival is slim to none.”
Alright and now finally for the last question when you are not pitching is there any hobbies or what do you like to do in your down time?
“I love fishing and I hunt some as well, more fishing if anything. Big time Marshall Unv. supporter. And counting down the days till next season.”
Thanks again Patrick for sitting down and answering a few questions for TNW and I hope to get the chance to talk to you again. Good luck with your rehab and I hope to see you out there again pitching in the near future.