He Was The No. 1 Pick In The MLB Draft. Nine Years Later, He Finally Made His Debut.
Mark Appel #22 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on June 29, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

A former first pick in the MLB draft got his long-awaited chance to play in an MLB game Wednesday night when the Philadelphia Phillies took on their division rival Atlanta Braves.

Mark Appel was selected as the first overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Houston Astros. Two years later, the pitcher was traded to the Phillies, but he never got a chance to play in a Major League game due to health issues and performance struggles. He even quit baseball in 2018, thinking he might never return to the game.

That all changed Wednesday night. Nine years after Appel was drafted first overall, he finally got called to the mound in the ninth inning to make his MLB debut for the Phillies.

“Having perspective and remembering even just two, three years ago,” Appel said after the game, according to “Even if I was just trying to come back, it’s never been a straight line for me. Even in that whole process, I was lost. I felt like there were times when I was hopeless, that this dream would never happen. So yeah, I was choking back tears.”

Appel spent time in Double and Triple-A for two seasons before being called up by the Phillies on Saturday. He’s been lights-out this season relief pitching for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he held a 1.61 ERA and 5-0 record in 19 appearances, and the pitcher transferred his hot pitching from the minor leagues onto the big stage. While Appel’s Phillies lost to the Braves 4-1 Wednesday night, the 30-year-old right-hander pitched a scoreless inning, allowing just one hit, and struck out one batter.

Appel reflected on the magnitude of the MLB stage following his debut, saying, “The music’s louder, the lights are brighter, the fans in Philadelphia are incredible,” he commented. “I heard people just cheering for me and supporting me, kind of knowing a little bit of my story and the background. It was just a really special moment.”

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