The image of the baseball hitting Marlon Byrd in the face is one I am having a hard time shaking off. The second image, the one of him thrashing around home plate on the ground from the pain is even more disturbing.
Marlon Byrd is the type of player that can carry a team when he’s on a hot streak. When his bat hasn’t quite hit it’s stride, he’s still a Cub that is fun to watch because you can tell he takes pride in being here and playing for Cubs fans. To see interact with the fans in the bleachers at Wrigley is one of the hidden gems of the Wrigley Field experience. The friendly jabs back and forth. The willing conversations with kids and adults alike. The dancing, the pointing, the smiling. Marlon Byrd is possibly the most likable player on the team which is what makes this injury all the harder to take.
I wouldn’t wish getting hit in the face with a fastball on any baseball player. Not a player I dislike and of course certainly not one I root for on a regular basis. The league is doing more to test out new helmets to help with preventing concussions that occur as a result of beanballs. Thing is, when you are unable to get out of the way and one of those pitches catches you in the face…not a whole lot you can do about it except go down hard and hope for the best.
Think about the highlights you’ve seen on Sportscenter…all the times you’ve seen them play that disturbingly loud PLUNK sound of a baseball hitting a batting helmet. You’ve seen the concern of players in the field and teammates in the dugout when they show those shots. Of course, they generally show the reaction once and the plunking about 30 times in a row. To see the concern on those players when a beanball happens off a batting helmet is one thing. You know it’s a big deal when players on the other team have looks on their faces like Youkalis did for the Sox. He looked absolutely horrified and rightfully so. Regardless of which uniform he is wearing, no player wants to see another player take a fastball to the face. And if they are concerned, players who have ‘seen it all’, then you know it is something to be concerned about.
As soon as it happened I thought of the scary episode baseball experienced earlier this year with Atlanta Braves minor leagues manager, Luis Salazar getting hit in the head with a foul ball and then slamming his head to the ground on his fall afterwards. He has lost the eye and his life will never be the same. Coaching like that can’t be easy…it would be impossible to play. My number one concern is Byrd’s health and vision. Number two would be his ability to play. When you start to talk about injuries to the head, you can’t mess around or take it lightly. The Cubs need to take this very seriously and take care of Byrd. He is an important part of the line up and fabric of this team however they must not rush him back…if coming back is an option at all.
Nothing would be sadder than to see a player in his prime, loving playing for the Cubs, have his career cut short because of this type of play. The head is just such an intense opportunity for brain and vision injuries, maybe the league needs to go even further to protect their players. Facemasks? I don’t know, not necessarily…but maybe.
My friend, Paulie Malignaggi, is a professional boxer. He fought the fight of his life at Madison Square Garden a few years back against a real brawler. It was a title match against the very talented and very strong Miguel Cotto. I produced a documentary of his training leading up to the fight and then we were there filming on fight night. Paulie performed to his best ability and made us all proud of him. While he did not win, he was impressive in defeat. I couldn’t believe he went the distance considering in the third round, he broke the orbital bone on the left side of his face (the bone below the eye/lower part of the eye socket). I couldn’t imagine the pain he must have been in and was concerned for his well-being, his career and his vision.
Luckily, Paulie healed and went on to continue his boxing career. Sometimes though, athletes can endure the same type of injury and not come out of it as lucky.
This Red Sox/Cubs series is something I’ve looked forward to because I predicted Cubs/Red Sox in the 2011 World Series. Game one was exciting until it turned into a giant blow-out loss. Game 2 was more fun as we ran off an 8-run 8th inning. Thing is, the game 2 success was greatly affected by the fact that one of our Cubs went down with a serious injury earlier in the game. Perhaps it’s because I have first hand experience with an injury like this, knowing someone who has suffered facial fractures/broken bones around the eye. I know how serious it can be and maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time shaking the Byrd injury off.
I can’t wait to hear an update and I very much so hope Byrd is okay. I realize he is a baseball player and not a boxer. It’s not like it was ten rounds of continuously getting hit in the face with a fastball. One shot, that was all. But to think about seeing the pitch hit him in the face and then him flailing in pain on the ground…a concussion would be one thing and I believe the team will handle his injury well and look out for Byrd’s health. As of right now, his vision is my real concern and I’m hoping for good news about his condition soon. Even more so than a Cubs win this evening.
Hoping for the best re: Byrd and that his teammates will one for him tonight. Would be a great start to what could be a long road back to the playing field for Marlon. Go Cubs Go.