Fan Saves Boy From Being Conked On The Head By Flying Bat During Spring Training

A heroic fan saved a small boy from serious injury on Saturday, bravely using his arms and hands to knock away a flying bat during a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting.

Shaun Cunningham and his son, Landon, were enjoying the Florida sunshine at the Braves’ spring training camp outside Orlando, Florida last weekend. During the top of the 5th inning, Pirates outfielder Danny Ortiz stepped up to the plate. He swung at a pitch and lost his grip on his bat, sending it sailing over the Braves’ dugout and into the crowd. It was headed straight for a small boy: Landon.

What happened next has become a viral sensation on social media. Call it bravery. Call it reflexes. Call it whatever you will, but in those harrowing split seconds, Shaun saw a piece of wood hurtling toward his son and did what any dad would do: he deflected the bat with his own body.

The dramatic moment was caught on camera by Tribune-Review photographer Christopher Horner, who shared them on social media. Within hours, the pictures of the fan saving a boy had gone viral on social media.

Landon, who was texting his mom on his smartphone and was too oblivious to see the danger headed his way, didn’t completely escape injury: the deflected bat caught him on the shoulder — a minor price to pay for avoiding getting beaned in the head and possibly facing serious injuries.

Dad Shaun says that he and Landon are going to be OK.

“We’re both fine. I’m a little bruised, but I’ll survive. I’ve been through worse.”

Landon’s mom, Ashley, praised her husband’s quick thinking.

“Thank God he has those reflexes. That bat was flying dead-center toward Landon’s head.”

For his part, Danny Ortiz, who at first stood awkwardly at the plate, not knowing what to do, was just as taken by the viral photos of the incident as the fans have been. He says he saw the pictures of the near-miss when he got home later that day.

“I didn’t know what happened — if it [hurt] the boy or anything. I went home and my wife said to me, ‘You almost killed that kid!’ I saw the picture. It was crazy. That guy took a shot for the kid. He protected that kid.”

While Major League Baseball teams do their best to protect fans from flying bats and balls, fans are still at a small risk of injury when they enter the stadium, and fans do get injured from time to time.

  • In April 2015, a fan at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park was knocked unconscious when a foul ball hit her in the back of the head. Although the fans were protected by netting, the ball was moving so quickly, and she was so close to the netting, that the net didn’t fully absorb the ball.
  • Also in April 2015, a fan watching the Pirates play the Cubs at Chicago’s Wrigley Field was knocked unconscious by a flying bat.

To combat the problem of projectiles flying into the stands, Major League Baseball teams are considering extending the protective nets that surround home plate.

Still, Danielle Day Huff, the president of a company that makes field equipment for Major League Baseball stadiums, reminds fans that baseball is a risky game, even for fans, and they need to be aware of what’s going on around them all the time. Most importantly, she says, fans need to put their phones down.

“Fans have to actively watch the game. It is just like crossing the street — you need to look up from your phone to do so safely.”

[Photo by David Banks/Getty Images]