It’s been a tough weekend for injuries around Major League Baseball. The one that concerns us most wasn’t suffered by a player, but rather Texas Rangers Triple-A hitting instructor Howard Johnson.
The former major leaguer was taken to an Arizona hospital Saturday after being hit in the face by a line drive foul ball during the team’s final Cactus League game.
According to reporters on the scene, Johnson was in the Rangers dugout, leaning on the railing, when Cleveland’s Erik Gonzalez smoked a line drive in his direction. Johnson was looking away when Keone Kela delivered the pitch, but as he turned his head was struck squarely on the left cheekbone.
“It got there really quick,” Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus told the Star-Telegram. “It was ugly. He was awake and he responded to all of the medial questions. So that’s a good sign.”
Rangers medical personal were on the scene quickly. A towel was placed over Johnson’s face to help cover a wound that was bleeding. The game was delayed about 10 minutes while Johnson was tended to. He was eventually placed on a stretcher and carted off the field. Johnson was released from the hospital on Sunday after being diagnosed with cheekbone fractures, but fortunately will not need surgery.
This is the second frightening incident involving a coach in as many years. Last March, San Francisco Giants first-base coach Jose Alguacil required surgery to repair a broken nose after being struck by a foul ball. Alguacil was seated on a folding chair outside the dugout and along the backstop when the incident happened. You may have noticed this year that coaches sitting outside the dugout are usually protected by a net.
It’s another scary reminder of how dangerous it can be sitting so close to the field. It only takes a split second for the baseball to get on the dugout and first rows of fans. It’s the main reason all 30 teams have committed to adding extended netting for the 2018 season.
Johnson, 57, played in the major leagues for 14 years, suiting up for the Tigers, Mets, Rockies and Cubs. He spent the past two seasons managing the Rangers advanced Class A team, leading them to a Carolina League title in 2017. Here’s wishing him the best.
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