This new pirate has already won his fiercest battle

Connor Joe has had his share of ups and downs during his nine years in professional baseball.

The player/outfielder is traded, selected in the Rule 5 draft, and designated for assignment. He’s also come full circle, returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates Last Sunday in Trade With the Colorado Rockies for right fielder Nick Garcia.

The Pirates selected Joe in the supplemental first round of the 2014 amateur draft. Three years later, former general manager Neil Huntington traded Joe to the Atlanta Braves after he reached the Double-A level.

However, this is nothing compared to 2020. The pandemic shut down baseball for four months and Joe missed the entire season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Joe is cancer-free and now a major league player at 30 years old after spending his first full season in the big leagues this year. Joe believes the mentality of a baseball player helped him overcome the dreaded disease.

During a video conference with reporters Wednesday night, Joe spoke about his fight.

“It’s more about being an athlete and you have to … I guess you set goals as an athlete, right?” Joe said. Then you discover ways to achieve those goals. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2020, my goal was to be free of cancer. I met the doctors and set goals and road maps. So, I think more than anything, that’s the mentality of the athlete, having to really go through something, whether it’s learning in the minor leagues, or hacking into the minor leagues.

“All of those things hardened me and prepared me for that fight that you fought. I think day in and day out, as you show up on the field, you’re not necessarily going to feel your best. You’ve been really battered in a 162-game season. So, understanding that, knowing the chemo won’t It’s always easy, everything I’ve learned in baseball has prepared me for success in my battle with cancer.”

Joe also learned a lot about himself as a player in 2022 when he scored 111 games with the Rockies. He made 43 starts in left field, 25 as a designated hitter, 17 at first base, and 16 in right field.

After sprinting, Conor Joe ended up hitting .238/.338/.359 with seven home runs. Joe had a .287/.370/.441 slash streak over his first 36 games, then slumped to .211/.321/.314 in his last 75 games.

However, Joe is convinced that better things await him in 2023. Part of that attitude stems from the fallout from winning his cancer battle.

“I think taking the game away from me puts everything in perspective,” said Joe. “I saw the game in a different light, I guess. I started playing the game with more joy, enjoying the little things of baseball season that people in the club can really complain about or find mundane. I think it was really a shift in perspective.”

Joe’s perspective isn’t the only thing that’s changed in the five years since he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. A lot has changed in the organization and only a few people know Connor Joe now.

However, he is excited at the chance to join the pirates.

“It’s definitely a full circle kind of moment, isn’t it?” Joe said. “When I got drafted in 2014, my dream of major league baseball was always at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. In 2017, I learned the business side of baseball. I got traded to the Braves and that really threw me for a loop. You can learn the business side of the game. Baseball very quickly.

“So, now to be back after being with different organizations and having to experience the major leagues, I’m really excited. I’m excited to play in Pittsburgh. I’m excited to come to PNC every single day.”

The Pirates are happy to have Joe the right-handed hitter. He pitches most of the time when the Pirates face left-handed pitchers, possibly spelling Ji Man Choi at first base or starting in one of the outfield’s corners.

“Since the start of the season, on the position fielder front, one of our goals has been to improve our ability on base,” said GM Ben Sherrington. “To do that, it usually takes more than one player and you have to find ways to get players into the squad who have that (ability). Connor’s ability to play up front and outfield and to be a really good match against the left throw in particular gives us a base ability and gives ( Director Derek Shelton has some options.

“He has a reputation as a player, someone who plays the game the right way and plays hard. We look forward to welcoming him back.”

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