When baseball fans head out to the stadium to see their favorite team play, many hope that a foul ball or a home run comes flying their way. But one of the last things you’d want to come soaring at you from the field is the actual baseball bat. This is what happened to one young, unlucky fan of the Atlanta Braves when a hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates lost his grip on the bat and sent it spinning into the crowd. Fortunately, another baseball fan had amazingly fast reflexes and was able to guard the boy’s face with his arm, milliseconds before it struck him.
The best part is, a photographer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review caught the exact moment of the near-impossible save on film. Christopher Horner tweeted two images from the baseball game, taken spit-seconds apart.
— Christopher Horner (@Hornerfoto1) March 6, 2016
These two photos show just how fast the bat was flying and how close the young baseball fan came to serious injury. In the first photo, the bat is blocked by the man sitting next to the boy, and in the second, the bat has whipped around to the other side of the boy’s head, having spun 180 degrees.
The boy is initially completely oblivious to the flying bat. He can be seen fiddling with a smart phone even while the bat is inches from his face. It isn’t until the projectile has already struck the man’s arm that the boy realizes how close he came to a concussion — or much worse. Major League baseball bats are typically made of wood and can weigh upwards of two pounds.
According to NPR, the incident took place at Braves’ spring training stadium in Florida, near Orlando. As amazing as the photo of the fan saving the boy is, the near-accident was not mentioned in any write-ups about the game. Despite the poor grip of the Pirates batter, Pittsburgh defeated the Atlanta Braves 9-6.
According to Trib Live, the culprit was outfielder Danny Ortiz, though he had no idea he nearly knocked a fan unconscious in the stands until his wife saw it on TV and told him.
“I didn’t know what happened, if it (hurt) the boy or anything,” said Ortiz. “I went home and my wife said to me, ‘You almost killed that kid!'”
Ortiz almost didn’t believe it, but his wife showed him the jaw-dropping photo taken by Christopher Horner.
“I saw the picture. It was crazy. That guy took [the hit] for the kid. The father, or whoever he was, he protected that kid.”
Indeed, it’s not simply the quick reflexes of the Braves fan that’s amazing, but also his willingness to reach out and absorb the impact himself to protect a younger fan. It’s still unclear if the man was the boy’s father or simply another Braves fan sitting next to him. Of course, if they are father and son, the instinct to protect him makes a lot of sense, but it was a heroic feat either way.
This wasn’t the first time the Pirates had an incident with a baseball bat flying into the stands. Last year, a batter for the Chicago Cubs, Addison Russell, accidentally let go of the bat while playing against the Pirates. The wooden missile flew into the crowd at Wrigley Field and struck an unsuspecting fan.
Because of these constant risks, Major League Baseball mandated last December that all teams install additional protective netting within 70 feet of the home plate.
What would you have done if you saw a baseball bat flying toward a fellow fan? Would you reach out to protect that person?
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]