KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Baseball players and fans shared a moment of fear Wednesday night after watching Cincinnati Reds' pitcher Aroldis Chapman take a line drive to the face. Royals' catcher Salvador Perez was at bat and laced the line drive in the sixth inning of a Cactus League Spring Training game in Arizona.
FOX 4 spoke with a man who spent many years on the pitcher’s mound, who also happens to be the oldest living Royal. Dave Wickersham is a former starting pitcher who played for four different MLB teams, including separate stints in Kansas City with the former KC Athletics and later with the Royals.
“I still have baseball blood in me. It isn’t all about throwing fast, it’s where you throw the ball,” Wickersham said.
Chapman's injury is one that players have feared for decades. Wickersham, who played in the first Kansas City Royals' game, described a close call from his days out on the mound.
“It came right back at me, and I thought I was dead. I thought I was dead. That ball came at me and was probably five to 10 feet in front of me, and all of a sudden it went off to the side of me. It just curved,” he said.
Baseball players at Longview Community College in Lee’s Summit spent time on the practice field Thursday. Michael Rippee, M.D., a neurologist at the Center for Concussion Management at the University of Kansas Hospital, explained the dangers players face if they were to get hit with a baseball in the face or head.
“Headaches, dizziness, confusion, concentration issues, sleep issues. The problem is trying to find the appropriate equipment that doesn’t interfere with the way the game’s played and the comfort of the players,” Rippee said in reaction to Wednesday night’s injury. “It’s pretty hard to watch. Especially just as a baseball fan. As a physician who deals with these types of injuries, you’re always thinking of the worst and hoping for the best.”
In January, Major League Baseball approved padded caps for pitchers. They’re not required to wear them. An MLB study clocked the average speed of a line drive at 83 miles per hour. The International Business Times reports that Chapman's pitch was clocked at 99 mph and likely shot back at him at the same speed.