Spring training is upon us once again, and with spring training come ridiculous baseball injury stories. Here’s the first one of the young season.
This morning, Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett was injured when he was struck in the head during batting practice. My immediate thought was, ok, he was talking to one of his buddies and got hit by a fly ball…it happens. Then I continue reading and find out that the ball that hit Beckett didn’t come off the bat of the guy at home plate, but rather from Red Sox staffer Ino Guerrero, who was attempting to redirect fly balls to the bucket behind second base using a fungo bat.
If you’ve ever been a pitcher, batting practice is one of the most boring and patience-testing activities you’ve ever endured in your career. While batters work on their swing, bat control, and power stroke, pitchers are relegated to shagging duties.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just shagging. As a pitcher it’s fun to get a good sweat in and relive your days as an outfielder. There are even games you can play where you get points for catching fly balls, one-hoppers, etc. But pitchers rarely get to actually catch fly balls because the real outfielders use that time to “read balls off the bat.”
So rather than getting to catch fly balls, the pitchers have to let the outfielders take whatever balls they want, back up to the warning track, and pick up any ball that has gotten past the outfielders. That usually means foul balls and balls that go into the stands…fun stuff.
Obviously at the Major League level things are a little different, but to my understanding there are still pitchers who have the dreaded assignment of “the bucket.” That’s where you stand behind a screen behind second base with your back to home plate surrounded by buckets and catch the balls thrown in by the fielders that have shagged them. It’s a “rite of passage” that every pitcher has to deal with at one time or another, but it’s absolutely brutal. Sorry for all the background, but this is relevant to the story.
Since pitchers have nothing to do, it’s easy to get involved with a fellow pitcher in a stupid game (for example, where you go back and forth naming a movie, then an actor from that movie, then another movie that actor has been in, and so on) and stop paying attention. That’s usually when guys get hit.
It adds a whole other obstacle when some lunatic is standing in the outfield with a fungo bat spraying line drives all over the outfield. It appears that Beckett will be ok, but something tells me Ino Guerrero will be on “clean the dugout” duty during batting practice from now on.