Thinking about the dangers of baseball

Salazar story makes sports fans cringe

Sports in Paradise By Dale Jones
Several years ago, I took a weekend trip with some buddies of mine to watch the Atlanta Braves take on the Chicago Cubs. We managed to snag some tickets sitting on the bottom row, just above the wall in left field. Truly great homerun seats if you are a baseball fan.

I had been to many major league games in the past and had caught a foul ball before, but always dreamed about being “that guy” on Sports Center, catching a game-winning homer with my cap as it sails over the wall in the bottom of the ninth.

Around the sixth inning, the couple that was seated to my left decided to make a run to the concession stand for some goodies.

Not 2 minutes after they vacated their seats, catcher Brian McCann stepped to the plate.

What I didn’t know was that my chance at Sports Center fame was just a few seconds away.

This 6’3”, 230-pound Duluth, Georgia native, who has enjoyed numerous homeruns for the Braves over the years, stepped into the batters box at hit a rocket line drive…straight at the left field wall.

My excitement and dreams of signing autographs following my 5 seconds of fame quickly turned to terror as I realized I was in the direct line of fire of this kamikaze baseball.

For the next 48 hours, I watched in horror as Sports Center repeatedly showed the four grown men in the outfield stands at Turner Field DIVING OUT OF THE WAY of the homerun ball…in slow motion.

But here is the thing – that ball bounced off of the seat vacated by the couple that had left to go get a hot dog. I am convinced that had the lady in the seat next me decided to let her husband go get the refreshments, she might not be here with us today. That ball slammed off of the back of her seat and ricocheted back out onto the field. It was downright deadly.

Another friend of mine told me about a major league game he attended where a lady was hit by a foul ball. Medics were rushed to her attention, and as they were helping her to the first aid station, she was hit again by another foul ball.

If you have ever been to minor or major league game, you know that, unless you are sitting behind the netting of the backstop, you could be fair game to a stray ball.

When I heard the news on Wednesday that Atlanta Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar was hit in the face by a Brian McCann foul ball, my thoughts returned to that afternoon in left field. There I was, more than 400 feet away from home plate and at least had time to dive out of the way. Salazar didn’t’ even see it coming. The former player, now in his first season as a Braves manager, obviously didn’t know what hit him.

For 15 minutes, he laid on the dugout floor unconscious, while medics tended to him.

According to Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse, the ball hit Salazar directly in the face.

Who could imagine such a scenario?

How many times have we seen stray foul balls go screaming into the dugout at a baseball game? It happens almost daily in the major leagues. I find it interested that while the NFL continues to find ways to protect players from certain forms of physical contact, baseball players, and fans, remain exposed to possible injury from the baseball itself.

I wouldn’t want changes to be made, nor do I see how it would be possible, to keep foul balls from flying into the stands, but it seems that some sort of protection for those in the dugout could be possible.

My prayers are with Luis Salazar as he recovers from his injuries.

Oh, and ladies, if you and your man attend a game this summer, and he gets up to go grab some concessions, if I were you, I think I’d go with him.

Hit ‘em straight (just not at the fans)
—Dale Jones is a reporter / sports columnist for Gulf Coast Newspapers and a Member of the Alabama Sports Writers Association. You can reach Dale at

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