July 27, 2009.
Top of the ninth.
The Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirate affiliate, and the Binghamton Mets, New York’s farm club, were playing out the rest of the Double-A string.
Neither team was really going anywhere. The playoffs were unlikely even with a month of the season left.
The groundball by Binghamton’s Jose Coronado was going up the middle and Jim Negrych had to dive to try and reach it. Shortstop Brian Friday thought the same thing. Negrych went headfirst and Friday went into a slide to try and pop up quickly to make a throw.
Friday’s knee slammed into the soft spot just below Negrych’s ribs, to the right of his navel, but above the belt line.
April 29, 2012.
Tyler Moore is called up to the Washington Nationals.
Who knows where Negrych was because the 27-year old infielder doesn’t even recall, but he was the new name on the Syracuse Chiefs roster.
Negrych was cut by Miami on the final day of spring training before being picked up by Washington. He played three games in Harrisburg before getting a phone call.
May 30, 2012.
Negrych reached base five times in his first game in Triple-A.The next day was his first Triple-A road trip. The Chiefs were going to his hometown, Buffalo, N.Y.
He has three homers and is batting .239 for Syracuse in his first 16 games a step away from The Show.
“Oh, he will hit,” Syracuse manager Tony Beasley, who worked with Negrych in the Pirates organization. “He will definitely hit. It is just a matter of time.”
A hit that Negrych took to the stomach nearly three years ago led to perhaps the most trying time in his life.
July 29, 2009.
“I thought I had the wind knocked out of me,” Negrych recalled. “We connected just like a figure eight. My right abdomen was basically spitting blood.”
He gutted out the internal bleeding.
Most minor leaguers do. At-bats beget batting average, batting average begets raised General Manager eyebrows, raised eyebrows beget promotions.
Negrych finished the inning in the field. He took another at-bat.
Even put the ball in play.
In the 90 feet between home and first he felt a wave of nausea.
He came out on a double switch and went into the clubhouse.
“I went in and threw up. I threw up straight blood,” Negrych said. “I wasn’t thinking about baseball then.”
He was in the training room when the EMTs arrived. Once he got to the hospital, the course of treatment was to stabilize, wait 12 hours, and reassess things with a CAT Scan. Most of the time the body can repair itself on its own. After a shift change a second surgeon wanted to open up the then 25-year old infielder and take care of the issue surgically. The idea was that the risk of waiting 12 hours was too great. Better to have a scar on the outside than permanent damage within. Typically, a scope is used to minimize the physical toll, but that piece of technology wasn’t in Altoona. They cut from just below Negrych’s navel to the top of his pubic area, folded everything open, got in there, and saw that the bleeding had stopped.
“They told me that they took out about a Coke can worth of blood of extra blood that was in my stomach,” Negrych said.
That is when it started to get bad for Negrych.
The surgeon did not write on his orders that he was on eating restriction.
A nurse came in and made him eat. He wasn’t hungry.
“I had one bite, I told her, ‘This is making me sick. I am not eating this,’” Negrych said. “She said, ‘At least you tried.’”
The one bite never made it through Negrych’s system. His digestive tract and bowels were, basically, off line for a few days due to the surgery. The bit sat and festered. Bacteria bred into an infection while he was still in the hospital.
Negrych was airlifted from Altoona to Pittsburgh. The Pirate doctors took over.
When he was first injured he weighed 185 pounds. After ten days, he was down to 155.
A drop like that is tough enough. Complicating things is that Negrych only has one kidney, ibuprofen was his only ally against the pain of being cut open and acting as a living petri dish.
The arsenal of antibiotics that eventually scoured Negrych’s system clean of the original infection also stripped him of the benevolent microbes that help the human body break down food and fight disease. He picked up another ailment.
Clostridium difficile, or “C. Diff,” is a bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and other intestinal problems when competing “good” bacteria is wiped out by antibiotics.
“It is constant. It eats away at you,” he said.
Doctors finally got him drugs that seemed to start turning things around. He started to just feel better. His weight kept dropping though. He bottomed out at 145. Forty pounds in a matter of months from a guy probably generously listed at 5-feet-10.
On a Thursday he saw his doctor again. She suggested that he keep an eye on the scale, but come back next week.
“I went home that night and went to sleep. I woke up feeling like someone beat me with a 2x4,” Negrych said.
Fluid was stopped up inside of him again. There was a possibility that “C. Diff” was getting stronger. Doctors finally prescribed Vancomycin, the drug of “last resort,” for Negrych to take orally in liquid form.
“I felt good within hours of taking that,” he said. “By that time it was the NFL season. I was home watching the Bills-Patriots Monday night game. I remember watching it.”
September 14, 2009.
Tom Brady hit Ben Watson with a TD pass with 1:06 left.
The Bills lost, 25-24.