HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In 2019, Sam Wibbels had a banner year for the Hastings baseball team. He recorded a 1.36 ERA and had 120 strikeouts. On top of that, he was prepping for his first season at the University of Kentucky. Then he added another notch to his belt when the Washington Nationals drafted him in the 36th round of the MLB draft.
"That opportunity was amazing. I was so thankful to the Washington Nationals organization for that opportunity," Wibbels said. "Getting that letter from them from their scouting guy was just amazing. Just saying thank you. I just thanked them so much for that opportunity."
Wibbels ultimately chose to pitch at Kentucky. Then in August a bump in the road happened when he noticed something was wrong with his fingers.
"I lost feeling in my fingers right here where you hold the baseball like this and these fingers right here were just purple," he said. "Like the nail bed was white and it was purple right here and it was just crazy."
Doctors found out he had fibromuscular dysplasia, a condition where arteries become narrower or enlarged. Wibbels went to St. Louis, Missouri to have emergency surgery. Afterwards, doctors told him pitching helped save his life.
"The pitching weakened it further so that it threw clots in my fingers. So, otherwise if I hadn't been pitching then it would have just stayed weakened to where my carotid artery, which is just the artery which goes up here into you brain. It would have thrown clots into your brain and then eventually had a stroke," Wibbels said.
He was forced to miss his first semester at Kentucky, rehabbing from surgery. However, this winter he was expected to pitch for the Wildcats until COVID-19 put a hold on that. And after an eventful few months,
Wibbels said what helped him the most was focusing on himself.
"My message would be to just run your race. Little bumps in the road come ever so often but you just got have to have your eyes on a set goal," he said.
Wibbels is back home in Hastings with his family. He is prepping for his last few finals and working on his craft with his dad in their backyard.