In 2005, umpire Ed Hickox was hit by a foul ball behind home plate. It knocked his mask off as it hit him in the jaw and caused broken bones and a concussion. Hickox sued Wilson, the mask’s manufacturer. Yesterday a jury returned a verdict in his favor to the tune of $775,000.
The key thing in Hickox’s favor, according to his lawyer, was that Wilson didn’t do any testing of the mask before distributing them — for free — to umpires. Rather, they depended on those umpires using the masks as defacto field tests. Hickox’s lawyer uses the phrase “human guinea pigs,” which I’m guessing was the theme of his case at trial too. Always gotta have a theme.
I’ve been thinking about injurious foul balls Since Luis Salazar got hit in the head last week. Yesterday I spoke with someone who works in the game who is convinced that it’s only a matter of time before someone is killed by one. Probably a fan. That’s another topic from this Hickox business of course — and I’ll be writing more about it soon — but all of this news combined with a week of walking on baseball fields close players as they hit and throw makes one realize that it’s damn dangerous down on that field. We don’t think about this very often as we see little white balls fly around on TV as though they are weightless, but a baseball can do a lot of damage.
Gives you a new appreciation for the batters who stand in there, the pitchers who stand in the direct line of fire — often unable by virtue of their follow through to defend themselves — and the catchers and umps who are nicked, banged, and battered multiple times a game.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.