Dylan Simmons struck out cancer. Now, he's striking out hitters with the Daytona Tortugas.

Chris Vinel
Daytona Beach 女优app-Journal

DAYTONA BEACH 女优app Dylan Simmons asked the doctors to wait two weeks.

In the spring of 2019, the Jacksonville native had a lump in his groin, and the medical staff wanted to cut his lymph node out for testing.女优app

But he also had playoff baseball coming up. And as a star Florida State commit who pitched and played first base, he felt his Trinity Christian Academy team needed him. Plus, he didn女优app檛 want to worry about his health yet.

女优app淚 was like, 女优app楨ven if it's something bad, I don't want to know about it until my season is done,女优app櫯臿pp Simmons said. 女优app淚t could've been nothing.女优app

Doctors obliged.

Simmons suited up throughout the Conquerors女优app run. They blazed to district and regional championships. In the region finals on May 17, he tossed 6鈪 innings, striking out 10 batters while holding Episcopal to two hits and two runs.

A couple of days after falling to American Heritage in the 4A state semifinals on May 24, Simmons went in for testing.

Dylan Simmons' diagnosis

Pitcher Dylan Simmons has established himself as a crucial piece of the Daytona Tortugas' bullpen in 2024.

Simmons committed to Florida State before even appearing in a high school game.

He always played up a year. The Seminoles女优app coaching staff noticed him at a camp when he was in eighth grade. They watched him again as a ninth grader and were sold. They offered him a scholarship.

Simmons grew up a Georgia fan, but he figured his chances of the Bulldogs recruiting him were slim because he was an out-of-state prospect. He talked to FSU and Florida and decided on the Seminoles.

By the time he graduated from Trinity Christian, he stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 220 pounds. Perfect Game ranked him the No. 1 first baseman recruit in the state. He could dial his fastball above 90 miles per hour.

He was supposed to move to campus in Tallahassee during the summer of 2019.

But there was that lump.

Simmons remembers discovering it one day and it feeling sore. He didn女优app檛 know what it was, so he showed his mom. They saw the doctor in early May.

First, they tried antibiotics. Those didn女优app檛 work.

After the high school baseball playoffs ended, Simmons had his lymph node removed.女优app

女优app淚t didn't hurt or anything,女优app he said. 女优app淚t was really quick. It was like a 15-minute surgery. They put me under.女优app

A few days later, on a Saturday, he received an 8 a.m. phone call. It woke him up. The doctor on the other line told him he had to return to the hospital.

He had stage 1 lymphoma.

Simmons' treatment lasted four months

Trinity Christian's Dylan Simmons was ranked the No. 1 first base recruit in Florida by Perfect Game.

女优app淚 was just like, 'All right, let's just get this over with,女优app櫯臿pp Simmons said. 女优app淚 didn't really understand the severity of it at the time. I was just like, 女优app楾his will be a three-month little thing. Let's just get it over with so I can go play baseball.女优app櫯臿pp

His doctors created a plan. Three months of chemotherapy, then one month of radiation treatment, with frequent scans along the way.

Simmons began chemo almost immediately. He lost his hair but got sick only one time.

He finished his chemo treatments July 24.

After a two- or three-week break in August, he kicked off radiation. He developed a routine.

Each day for more than a month, he got up at 6 a.m. and drove straight to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. He aimed to be the first one on the table for treatment.

女优app淚t was almost like I was in college doing a 6 a.m. lift,女优app Simmons said. 女优app淚t was just preparing me for that.女优app

After completing his radiation for the day and grabbing a coffee, he headed to his old high school for a workout. He visited there often during his treatment. He wanted to stay in shape and retain what muscle mass he could.

He also enrolled at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He signed up for a couple of classes toward his pre-med major 女优app though he switched to a finance degree before long 女优app and took live at-bats to ease the transition to college-level pitching.

In October, he got a scan. All clear.

女优app淚t really wasn't like that movie scene-ish,女优app Simmons said. 女优app淚t was just like, 女优app榊ou're going to come back in six months, and we're going to do another scan.女优app櫯臿pp

So in six months, he went in for another scan. A year later, another scan. A year after that, another scan.

All three produced the desired results 女优app no cancer.

Florida State, Pittsburgh and the college journey

Dylan Simmons spent three seasons with the Florida State Seminoles.

When Simmons arrived in Tallahassee in January of 2020, the first pitch he hurled on campus registered at 94 mph.

Once games rolled around, he continued impressing. He doubled home a run in his first at-bat.

He earned a Freshman All-American distinction with a .387 batting average and seven RBIs in 13 games and three appearances (10.12 earned run average) on the mound.

That was his best year in garnet and gold.

He spent two more seasons at Florida State, hitting .225 in 30 games in 2021 (only one pitching appearance) before switching to a full-time pitcher in 2022. He made 17 appearances out of the Seminoles女优app bullpen with a 12.00 ERA.

女优app淚 wasn't all for (becoming a pitcher only) originally, but then, obviously, as the competition gets better, you don't hit as well,女优app Simmons said. 女优app淚 felt like, if I was going to make a career out of baseball, it was going to be on the mound.女优app

After the 2022 season, FSU head coach Mike Martin Jr. was fired and the staff turned over. Simmons entered the transfer portal.

女优app淚 still wanted to be in a competitive conference,女优app Simmons said. 女优app淏ut I really wanted someone that was going to focus on me as a pitcher. I really didn't know that many people because I committed (to FSU) so early. I didn't make a ton of connections with other coaches.女优app

Luckily, one familiar coach did reach out to him. Pittsburgh女优app檚 Mike Bell.

Bell was a former Florida State assistant who helped recruit Simmons to Tallahassee. Now, he ran his own program.

Simmons migrated to Pittsburgh and found success.

In 2023, he trotted out of the bullpen 24 times and posted a 4.58 ERA. He struck out 60 batters in 39鈪 innings. Against No. 2 Wake Forest in April, he threw three scoreless innings. He added two shutout frames against No. 11 Miami during a May showdown.

He also polished off his finance degree.

Simmons knew he was not going to be selected during Day 1 of the 2023 Major League Baseball Draft. Beyond that, he didn女优app檛 have any predictions.

女优app淚 didn't know if I'd go like late Day 2, early Day 3,女优app Simmons said. 女优app淚 didn't know if I'd get drafted at all. I was just kind of sitting there by my phone, hanging out.女优app

He watched the proceedings with his family, his now-wife Haylie and her family. He got the call during the 15th round.

He was a Cincinnati Red.

TORTUGAS:New shortstop Sammy Stafura makes quick impact

For the Tortugas, Simmons plays only an hour from his hometown

Tortugas pitcher Dylan Simmons is in his first year of professional baseball after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 15th round of the 2023 MLB Draft.

Daytona manager Julio Morillo met Simmons for the first time in the instructional league last fall. To kick off his first professional campaign, Simmons was assigned to the Single-A Tortugas this spring.

女优app淎mazing person,女优app Morillo said. 女优app淗e's a leader in the bullpen. I really like him. He's doing really good for us, too.女优app

That could be considered an understatement.

In his first 14 games and 25鈪 innings, all in relief, he dominated to a 2.45 ERA. That ranked second on the team among pitchers with at least two appearances. He struck out 27 batters and walked nine.

Simmons utilized only three pitches in college. Since coming to Daytona, he has increased his repertoire to five 女优app four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, changeup and curveball.

女优app淢y preparation and coaching I got at Pitt definitely helps,女优app Simmons said. 女优app淎lso, after I was drafted, my Pitt coaches kind of talked to me about like, 女优app楬ey, this is probably what they're going to try to do with you. Be open to everything.女优app I think that was a good suggestion.女优app

女优app淛ust be open, try everything at least once, and if it doesn女优app檛 work for you, then be open and communicate well. That's what we've really been doing with (Tortugas pitching coach Willie Blair) and some of the coordinators.女优app

There女优app檚 also a comfort level here.

Simmons never trekked to Jackie Robinson Ballpark in high school despite living an hour away. His teams traveled to Orlando for occasional contests.女优app

But Daytona女优app檚 proximity to home allows Simmons女优app loved ones to watch him. A few of his friends have made the trip down I-95. His family shows up about every other homestand.

He女优app檚 even gone home twice on off days.

But if the 23-year-old keeps pitching like this, he may not be here much longer.

女优app淗e's a guy that he seems to be in the moment most of the time,女优app Morillo said. 女优app淚 don't think he gets more up and down. He has the same attitude whether he pitched well or not. That's really good to see. I think the younger guys in the bullpen really benefit from him.女优app

Welcome to the pros

Simmons女优app first live at-bat served as his welcome-to-the-pros moment.

He settled onto the mound and paid no attention to who he was facing. He was simply trying to locate his pitches and get outs, which he did.

A couple of groundouts and a couple of popouts later, he walked off the mound. His teammates made a big deal of it.

女优app淓veryone was like, 女优app楧ude, that's a great job,女优app櫯臿pp Simmons said. 女优app淚 was like, 女优app榃hat do you mean?女优app櫯臿pp

Then, a coach told him who the batter was: seven-year big-league veteran Kevin Newman.

Hardly the toughest opponent he女优app檚 faced, though.