Injuries have ruined the careers of many wonderful athletes. Long before many surgeries like Tommy John were commonplace, athletes would suffer a torn ligament or something similar and see their careers flash before their eyes. One member of the New York Mets you may remember who suffered this poor fate is Bob Apodaca.
I remember Apodaca well for his coaching career. He was the pitching coach for the Mets from 1996-1999. He followed that up with pitching coach gigs with the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies—the latter spanning from 2003-2012.
Before this, he was a pitcher for the Mets in the mid and late 1970s. Sadly, a torn ligament would end his career far too early.
Former Mets pitcher Bob Apodaca was well on his way to a great career
It didn’t begin well. In 1973, Apodaca debuted in the majors with a pair of walks to the only two batters he faced. The young pitcher would get a chance at redemption the next season. He made the most of it.
Apodaca flipped between pitching in relief and starting for the team in 1974. He ended the year with 103 innings pitched and a 3.50 ERA. The game of baseball was changing at this point. Bullpens and relief pitchers were becoming a little more specialized. Not quite the days of specific roles for each arm, he did at least get a chance to focus exclusive on a bullpen role in 1975.
Making the most of his 46 games, Apodaca tossed 84.2 innings for the Mets. He saved 13 games for them and finished the year with an eye-popping 1.49 ERA.
These numbers, coming from any era, were fantastic.
Proving he was no one-hit-wonder, Apodaca came back in 1976 with another impressive campaign. He saved 5 games in 89.2 innings of work and pitched to a 2.81 ERA. He followed it up with another good but not great season in 1977, posting a 3.43 ERA in his 84 innings of work.
That’s when it all ended. The following spring is when Apodaca suffered his injury. Only 28 at the time, he fought hard to get back.
Apodaca would throw 4 innings in 1979 down in Triple-A and another 25 in Double-A during the 1981 season. Unable to pitch at all in 1978 and 1980, it was one of those heartbreaking comebacks that never seemed to come.
I give Apodaca a lot of credit. Not just for his attempted comeback. As harrowing as it is, he gave back to the game a lot over the years.
There are a ton of people out there who fell short of their goals. Apodaca got to sip from an amazing opportunity, but health got in the way. Fortunately, he did get to coach for many years and give back to a game that stole from him. He remained working in baseball until June 2020.
We may be able to count on one hand how many seasons he played in the big leagues. This pales in comparison to the number of people whose careers he likely impacted in a positive way. It’s no easy feat working as a pitching coach in Colorado. Apodaca did that and more. It all began with the Mets.