A scary moment during yesterday’s Yankees-Indians game:
NEW YORK — It is the worst nightmare of both the pitcher and the hitter, the ball that is hit so hard there is simply no time to duck, no time to react, no chance for the elemental reflex of self-preservation.
It happened in the third inning of Saturday’s Yankees-Indians game, and for several heart-stopping, breath-holding minutes, it was easy to imagine that the worst thing that could happen on a baseball field had just happened, in full view of 46,000 spectators.
Cleveland right-hander David Huff threw a pitch to Alex Rodriguez, and before either of them could possibly have known what was happening, the ball was back in the pitcher’s face, smacking with a THWACK! off Huff’s left temple that must have been audible in the remotest sections of the ballpark.
Huff, a 25-year-old in his second big-league season, fell face down and motionless on the pitcher’s mound. Rodriguez, reacting with a hitter’s instinct, barreled around first base and into second. Nick Swisher, on second base, came around to score. The baseball, ricocheting as sharply as if it had hit concrete, wound up in right field.
And the hearts of 46,000 people leaped into 46,000 throats as a crowd of teammates, trainers and paramedics rushed to the mound and the fallen pitcher.
Rarely has Yankee Stadium been as quiet as it was at that moment and rarely has a ballgame there suddenly seemed so unimportant. As the medical staff worked over Huff, who did not move for what seemed like hours, Rodriguez and Swisher dropped to their knees, their eyes focused on the ground.
Huff was taken to an ambulance waiting by the service gate beyond the left-center field fence and rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where a CT scan revealed no neurological damage. The pitcher was kept briefly for observation and then sent back to Yankee Stadium.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez, who was visibly affected by the incident, left the ballpark immediately after the game and called a Yankees publicist from his car for the location of the hospital, hoping to visit Huff before he was released.
Learning that Huff was on his way back to the ballpark, Rodriguez was given the player’s cellphone number and was trying to reach him Saturday night.
“Your heart stops. You want so badly to take it back,” Rodriguez said in a statement relayed through Jason Zillo, a Yankees publicist. “You’re scared. You think of him, you think of his family. You think of a million other places that the ball could have gone, other than where it did. Why there?
“I mean, we’re playing a game. A game. I know it’s a business, too, but to all of us, playing it should always be a game first, and when something like that happens right in front of your eyes it makes you think long and hard about things much bigger than throwing or hitting a baseball or running around the bases for a few hours a day. I’m so thankful that he’s going to be OK.”
It really is just a freak accident of physics. A move to the left or the right, a little more or less force on the ball, and things would’ve turned out differently. Fortunately, Huff is okay.
Here’s video of the incident, which is still cringe-inducing even when you know that the injury wasn’t bad: