This post might just be therapy. Excuse me if it is.
I had a great late-afternoon at the ballpark, my San Francisco Giants v. the Milwaukee Brewers in a strange 4 pm start. I left work early and took my daughter Nora, who's home for Easter. She left in the 7th inning to have dinner with Dad, and I went down to visit my friend Tony, who has seats, literally, in the first row behind the on-deck circle. There was no extra seat there, so the ushers let us move to some empty seats to our left, first row, right behind home plate. Tony's wife called to say we were on TV. Good times! Brand new pitcher Joe Martinez was closing out the game -- we love Joe Martinez, we saw him pitch out of a few jams in Spring Training last month, he jumped straight up from Double-A ball, and he got the win on Opening Day -- and it was quickly two outs, two strikes, Giants up 7-1, Mike Cameron at the plate.
Then Cameron whacked the ball right back at Martinez, hit him in the head, and the ball ricocheted directly back at us. We were in no danger, safe behind the big screen; I only add that detail because I think it magnified the shock and the sickening thwack of the ball off Martinez's head. I can still hear it, and I wish I couldn't. Martinez took a few steps, then went down to his knees, bleeding from his temple and his nose. Benjie Molina looked like he didn't know whether to chase the ball or rush out to Martinez, and Cameron wasn't running for a while either. Trainers and coaching staff ran out to Martinez; Molina just walked around home plate looking like he'd cry; I think Cameron was in tears crouching at second base, with Giants players coming over to comfort him -- including left-fielder Fred Lewis, who hit a line drive that fractured an opposing pitcher's skull in the minor leagues -- while Brandon Fedders warmed up to take Martinez's plate.
Cameron collided with former Mets teammate Carlos Beltran a few years ago and wound up with a serious concussion, which he was no doubt reliving today. Almost as much as Martinez, my heart goes out to Cameron. I'm haunted by Mark Benjamin's great reporting about the prevalence, and undertreatment, of PTSD in the military, and I don't want to trivialize war by comparing it to baseball, but looking at Cameron you had to see a kind of PTSD in his reaction. After the game, longtime Giants announcer and former pitcher Mike Krukow talked about the time he took a ball off his forehead, and how long he relived the experience, and the normally goofy Krukow sounded like he was never entirely the same, either.
Martinez walked off the field, thank God, and was reported to be alert after the game, but heading for a CTscan and MRI. After catcher Mike Metheny's set of career-ending concussions a few years back, the Giants are very careful about head injuries, and nobody could have seen what happened and not thought about the death of Natasha Richardson after a trivial-seeming head injury last month. Coming the same day as the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22, in a traffic accident, it made an already sad day for baseball a little bit worse. But the way both teams comforted one another's most devastated players out there on the field was a comfort, the best of baseball. So prayers and all good thoughts for Joe Martinez and Mike Cameron tonight. I hope to see Martinez back on the mound soon.