Rare blood disorder almost kept Knights catcher out of baseball

by: Phil Orban Updated:

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CHARLOTTE - The Charlotte Knights opened their season Friday night in BB&T BallPark. Behind the plate was Josh Phegley, one of the Chicago White Sox top prospects. However if things had worked out differently four years ago, Phegley may not even be playing baseball at all.

The Knights catcher reached the pinnacle of professional baseball last season, spending 65 games with the White Sox after a midseason call-up.

“I just take it as a learning experience, playing at that level. And that’s the ultimate goal to be up there,” Phegley said.

Back in 2010, in class at Winston Salem, the then 21-year-old noticed a bruise that would not heal. After a series of tests, doctors discovered that Phegley’s platelet count was dangerously low. This came as the  result of a rare blood disorder, Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, also known as ITP, that prevents blood from clotting. Phegley, a star prospect, was stunned.

“The initial reaction is you're scared, you don't know what to think; but I think I stayed pretty positive through the whole thing. I felt perfectly healthy,” Phegley said.

The scary part was feeling physically healthy while battling a life-threatening disease. Phegley had his spleen removed, which spiked his platelet count. It was a matter of keeping him healthy so he could play baseball. The White Sox were very careful, closely monitoring his blood work to ensure he was never in any serious danger.

“It was an all year thing but we battled it and we came out on top; kinda opened my eyes a little bit to cherishing every day on the ball field,” said Phegley.

The systems in those diagnosed with ITP eventually adjust. There’s a 90 percent chance Phegley will never have another setback from the blood disorder.