Darin Downs was done playing professional baseball to start the 2021 season. He had settled into a new role as pitching coach for the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks. It appeared that the Coronavirus has helped to end the career of someone who had been playing at the pro level since 2003. Then the Ducks were ravaged by affiliated ball signings and injuries. On June 19th of this season, Downs agreed to come out of retirement and take the ball for the Ducks in a game where they desperately needed a spot starter. 16 starts later and Downs isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
I won’t lie, I was ready to write off Downs’ story as nothing more than a one-off at first. Then, when I realized he was starting more and took a look at his earlier numbers I was ready to write off Downs altogether. Good thing I didn’t because Downs has spent the past month proving that this isn’t just an easy-to-forget comeback. He’s been lights out over the past month and has turned his season around to the tune of a 4.07 ERA in 84.0 innings pitched.
I know, a 4.07 ERA isn’t exactly the best. However, we are talking about a 36-year-old pitching coach who was retired to start the season. He only took the mound out of pure necessity. The idea was never for him to keep pitching and to become an important part of the starting rotation for the best team in the ALPB. Yet, here we are, and were it not for the amazing comeback of Josh Sale I dare to say that Downs’ comeback would be the best one in baseball this year.
Baseball is a great sport, the best game in town. Never is that more true than when those who were down and out force their way back into the discussion through performance and performance alone. Maybe this is Downs’ swansong and maybe it will go off the rails before it reaches the final station. Be that as it may, it’s been a fun ride and a reminder of how much fun can be had with the randomness of the aging curve in baseball.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – OurSportsCentral