Major League Baseball can do everything to protect the players from injury but some plays are just unavoidable. A line drive back up the middle that strikes a pitcher is one such play. When it hits the pitcher in the face, the game gets real scary.
Such a situation came up during the Kansas City Royals' spring training exhibition with the Cincinnati Reds this week. With Royals' catcher Salvador Perez at the plate, Aroldis Chapman delivered an 0-2 pitch Perez rocketed right back at the hurler. No player posses the reaction time that would have been required to avoid what happened next, as seen in this video from MLB.com:
Perez was visibly shaken. He can be seen in the video on one knee near the right side of the mound. A horrible injury that was later confirmed to require surgery for facial fractures, it quickly became a career-altering moment. That is, it has the potential to alter multiple careers.
Dick Kaegel of MLB.com reported Perez visited Chapman in the hospital after the incident. Perez shared a few thoughts concerning his mindset:
I'm sad because he won't be ready for Opening Day. It's not my fault, I was just trying to do my job, he was trying to do his job. But I still feel bad about it.
Still, a report from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star shows Perez is still carrying the weight of the situation around with him. Perez is quoted in the article as saying, "It hit my heart right there."
Early reports are that Chapman is lucky and will likely return to the field in about 4-6 weeks; the players involved will be happy to learn that. Perez told both Kaegel and McCullough he was sad Chapman would miss Opening Day.
Now it is up to the young Perez to block the horrible situation out of his mind and continue to play at the level the Royals hope he can.