“It’s just a real sickening feeling for everybody.”
Those are the words of Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost after last night’s game between his club and the Cincinnati Reds. In the sixth inning of the Cactus League matchup, Aroldis Chapman reared back and threw one of his patented fastballs to Royals catcher Salvador Perez. The pitch was traced at 99.3 mph by the in-stadium tracking system. Salvador Perez stands 6’3 and weights 245 pounds.
For at least the fourth time in the last two years, a very large, very strong batter swung his bat to met an onrushing fastball with disastrous consequences. The pitch came towards the pitcher even faster than he sent it away, all in the span of a half second. Last night, the ball struck the tall Cuban pitcher above the left eye. It struck with such force that “the baseball cracked Chapman’s skull and rebounded back toward third-base line” according to Andy McCullogh of the Kansas City Star.
By the time a fielder scooped up the baseball near the third base dugout, Chapman was on the ground, kicking his feet with blood pooling on the mound. The Reds trainer reached him almost as quickly as the fateful baseball, with his teammates gathering to check on their fallen closer.
It is the worst scene in baseball and an increasingly common one. The biggest question remains unanswered: what can we do?