A pitcher tosses a pitch at more than 90 mph and has less than a second to prep for a potential ball return at speeds well over 100 mph. When he can’t get out of the way, it’s the scariest injury in all of baseball.
J.A. Happ, starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, experienced exactly what’s described above on Tuesday night when Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Desmond Jennings squared a pitch and sent it right back up the middle. The line drive ricocheted off of Happ’s head. The entire stadium reacted to the hit, then quickly realized exactly what had happened. Here is the video from MLB.com.
After being immobilized and rushed to the hospital for tests and observation, Happ was announced to be in stable condition. He remained conscious and alert during the entire ordeal, even offering a wave from the stretcher as he exited the field of play.
As soon as I saw this video, it made me think of a similar play, in which a young pitcher with a bright career (Matt Clement) was hit by a line drive. Ironically, he was also pitching vs. the Rays when the injury occurred.
I wish the best for Happ and hope he is able to fully recover. The physical recovery will be the easy part. The mental and emotional recovery may take a little longer. Some players, including the MLB example of Clement, are never quite the same after being hit by a line drive while on the mound. It’s easily understandable.
Considering available technology in creating lightweight, protective headgear, is it time for MLB to implement more protection for pitchers?