Plenty of baseball players have hit rock bottom on the unforgiving road to the major leagues.
Few, if any, have done it as literally as Diamondbacks reliever Brady Raggio.
Shortly after pitching his first professional season with the St. Louis Cardinals' rookie league affiliate in 1992 in Arizona, Raggio was visiting a friend in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Halloween night. The pair were headed down to the beach when some wooden stairs gave way.
Raggio fell about 10 feet, grabbed vainly at some vegetation, then tumbled 55 more feet, landing on the rocks below.
"I remember hearing the waves and then I woke up in the hospital,' " said Raggio, who sustained a shattered kneecap, a broken femur, a fractured ankle and a broken elbow. "It was a long stay and it was so hard. I had just turned 20 and I just had my first year of pro ball, so there were a lot of emotions because I didn't know if I was going to be able to play again."
After 3 1/2 weeks in a hospital and six months of painful rehabilitation, Raggio did, resuming his career with the Cardinals' Class A affiliate in Madison, Wis.
But the 6-foot-4, 210-pound right-hander's trials didn't end there. After climbing all the way to the big leagues in 1997, he struggled in 1998, recording a 15.43 ERA in four games with St. Louis while allowing 22 hits in seven innings.
"I don't throw particularly hard so I have to throw strikes and make people hit the ball," Raggio said. "That year they were hitting the ball."
After a dismal 1999 season with Texas' AAA affiliate in Oklahoma, Raggio shipped out to Japan with his wife, Denise, and pitched three years for Fukuoka, splitting time between the majors and minors.
"Pitching in front of a lot of people and facing that kind of pressure really helped me," he said.
Raggio was not offered a spring training invitation this season so he went to Bridgeport of the Independent Atlantic League and pitched well in four starts (2.93 ERA) before Arizona offered him a spot with Class AAA Tucson.
In four starts with the Sidewinders, Raggio went 1-2 with a 4.68 ERA, but earned a call-up Saturday to help relieve an overworked and banged up Diamondbacks bullpen. Raggio has made the most of this chance. Pitching in the last four Diamondbacks games (three innings), Raggio has allowed one hit, one walk and no runs while fanning two.
"When we called down there we were looking for someone who could come up here and not pitch themselves into trouble," manager Bob Brenly said. "That's what he's done. He throws strikes, he knows how to pitch and he's not afraid. "
Raggio inherited a heap of trouble Monday when Houston rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to cut a 7-2 Arizona lead to 7-6. But with the tying run at second base, Raggio came on and got Richard Hidalgo to ground to third base, earning Raggio his first career major league save and just the third of his professional career.
"He got thrown right into the fire and he's been perfect for us. That situation (Monday) couldn't have been any bigger," Diamondbacks catcher Chad Moeller said. "For a guy that was in independent ball just a few weeks ago, that's pretty darn cool. It makes you realize you can never give up on this game because you don't know what the road has ahead of you."
Nobody knows that better than Raggio, who still sports a metal rod in his right femur, an elbow made entirely of metal, and a body full of scars.
"I'm lucky to be alive let alone playing baseball," he said. "I know they'll have to make some decisions here when we get healthy again and guys start returning to the lineup, but I'm just going day by day right now. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do.
"I can't worry about the future. Whatever comes, comes."