When Bobby Bonilla famously offered to show Bob Klapsich (above, middle) the Bronx, it wasn’t because the latter had any difficulty seeing it for himself. But since last July’s terrifying eye injury suffered in an Over 40 league contest, amateur pitcher/professional baseball scribe Klapisch has been left to ponder how “control of the ball – and with it, the at-bat, the game, sometimes even your life – ends the moment it leaves a pitcher’s fingertips.” From Sunday’s Bergen Record (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory) :
I learned this hard lesson July 10 at Smith Field in Parsippany, when the curveball I threw not only froze in the middle of the strike zone, it turned into a missile searing toward my skull. Thanks to a combination of topspin off the hitter’s bat, and a rock near the mound, a last-second bad hop left me defenseless as the ball struck me in the eye.
The explosion in my head might as well have come from a 12-gauge shotgun; that’s how loud it was. The ball sliced open my cornea, completely detached my retina, ruptured several areas of the eye socket and broke nearly every bone on the right side of my face.
I remember drifting, floating – was I dying, I wondered? – then landing on the ground with a sick thud. I could feel the blood pouring out of my nose, my mouth and from the cut on my cheekbone, which had been split in half.
“I can’t see, I can’t see,” is what I kept screaming before my words dissolved into a sound that can only be described as a rung lower than primal. One of my teammates, a Roxbury police officer, turned away in horror.
Though there’s some slight comic relief in the Bergen Record piece (a recollection of the day Al Leiter pulled a David Schultz and attempted to show the writer just how hard a big league pitcher can throw — good thing Tim Wakefield wasn’t eavesdropping), the good news is Klapisch might regain as much as 80 percent vision in his right eye, pending the outcome of further surgeries. Answering his own question of whether or not amateur ball was worth this kind of risk, Klapisch writes, “I pitched for the Mariners and Hackensack Troasts because it allowed me to respect major-leaguers in a way few other writers can.” While that’s noble enough, I’ll also bet that aside from being maimed, it was probably fun most of the time, too. If you’re wondering why a 51 year old man would willingly put himself in the line of fire, “because he can” isn’t a bad answer.