Craig Calcaterra

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Fan saves boy from getting hit in the face with a bat

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We’re used to seeing balls going into the stands at baseball games. Bats fly into the crowd sometimes too, but they are a bit less common. One went flying into the stands at the Braves-Pirates game over the weekend at the Braves’ Disney complex and nearly smacked a boy in the face.

He was saved by the adult next to him who shot his arm out just in time to deflect it. The moment was captured perfectly by photographer Christopher Horner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Note that in the second picture the bat has done a complete 180-degree turn, less than a second later. That suggests it was helicoptering in pretty darn quickly. It also suggests that our hero on the left of the frame has a big, big bruise on his forearm today.

I’m sure he’ll take it, though, given that he saved that boy from some far worse injuries:

Take everything you hear about player health with a grain of salt

Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis takes batting practice during a baseball spring training session on Thursday, Feb 25, 2016, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Curtis Compton /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)  MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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I’ve spent the morning living in the past. It’s my brother’s 45th birthday today so I woke up thinking about him a lot. How he got so old while I’ve stayed so young and vibrant is a mystery but I’ll call him later to taunt him about that.

Then, thanks to that Facebook memories, and the fact that I’m usually at spring training in early March, I was reminded of a ton of past spring training happenings. Six years ago today I witnessed a Mets fan berating a hotel clerk in Port St. Lucie. Four years ago today I saw Yu Darvish‘s debut, during which a credentialed cameraman dropped his camera and dove for a foul ball. It happened the morning after I met a guy in a bar with a head wound who thought that women getting the right to vote was the worst thing ever. I wonder what happened to that guy. I assume he’s running Trump’s Arizona operation but I can’t be sure. I’m flying to Phoenix on Thursday so I’ll try to catch up with him.

An event more relevant to the 2016 season has me looking backwards too. It’s this story about Braves outfielder Nick Markakis from Mark Bowman at MLB.com. It’s an encouraging story about how he is feeling 100% this year and how, unlike last year, after a short spring training due to his recovery from neck surgery, he is swinging free and easy, has power and is relieved to be able to engage in his entire, usual spring training routine. What a nightmare last year was! How good that is in the past!

But then I remembered last year Markakis, as most players coming off of injuries or surgeries do, claimed he was totally fine. Indeed, he claimed it exactly one year ago today, telling Bowman “I’ll be fine with a week’s worth of at-bats” and suggesting that the neck surgery was no issue at all. Guess not.

Which, fine. Markakis is an athlete. Athletes, by necessity, spend a lot of time convincing themselves they can do the impossible and convincing themselves that obstacles in front of them are not as big as they seem. Most, I suspect, do not allow themselves to acknowledge long odds until the absolute last moment they have to, preferring instead to engage in positive thinking. They’re wired differently than you and me.

But it does mean that whenever you hear a player talking super positively about his recovery from surgery or injury you should take his claims with a grain of salt. Or at least bookmark it and check back in a year for some more candid comments about where he was at the time he offered said comments.

Tony Clark makes a silly threat over an incorrect media report

Tony Clark
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Last week there was a report that the players union was interested in restricting or eliminating clubhouse access for the media in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. It was incorrect — the union is not interested in doing that — and the reporter who wrote it corrected the report. Everyone moved on with their lives.

Mostly, anyway. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark was annoyed at the report. Fair enough. No one likes an inaccurate report. But he seemed to go beyond annoyed. In fact, Clark said that the incorrect report about restricting media access was so annoying that, if there is one more incorrect report about restricting media access, it may cause the players to actually want to restrict media access.

No, that is not hyperbole. That’s exactly what he said:

“Unfortunately, what’s happened over the last 48, 72 hours as a result of somebody offering something that wasn’t true, is players are talking more about it than they were prior to it being offered because they knew it wasn’t on the priority list and they knew there were a number of other things that they wanted to work through. So, I have no interest in cutting access to the clubhouse. If another article pops likes the one that popped 72 hours ago, whatever to-do list we may have that it’s not on now, it may move on to it as a result of players getting more uncomfortable about what and how — what level of professionalism the media has. So, it’s unfortunate what came out.”

I can’t decide if that’s more ridiculous because of the actual implied threat or because of what it says about Clark’s ability to lead his union. “Hey reporters, you better not get any reports wrong or else we’re going to totally change our priorities and seek to mess with you rather than concentrate on the things which do matter to us!”

Can you imagine Marvin Miller, Don Fehr or Michael Weiner saying that? In the course of decades of contentious negotiations there were undoubtedly incorrect reports, likely dealing with far more substantive matters. There is noise when it comes to labor stuff all the time. Sometimes it reflects poorly on the players, sometimes on the owners. And usually it’s far more prominent than a single report from a single reporter in a single (no offense) minor media outlet. Sometimes, as was the case here, the bad information was quickly corrected. But not always. And either way, union leaders always moved on and got on with their jobs. Not Clark, I guess. Or at least not the players he represents, who may be the ones doing the grousing about bad reports which he is now passing along.

I say “represents” rather than “leads” because there is no way a strong union leader would ever make such grousing from the players a public issue like this. A leader may nod and say they understand but then tell them that there are way more important things the union should be doing than complaining about petty P.R. concerns. Rather, it should be focusing on things like the fact that the owners have been eating their lunch for several years now with respect to drug testing, service time manipulation, off-the-field discipline and free agent rules which are inhibiting the market for veterans. Things like the owners’ revenues skyrocketing while the players who have made that possible are getting a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. You know, stuff that matters to them and their well-being.

But hey, if it rattling the media’s cage is so important to Tony Clark and the MLBPA that they’ll bump one or more of those things down the priority list in order to rattle harder, that’s fine. The media will adjust. And I’m sure the owners won’t object for a second. Indeed, they’d probably enjoy it very, very much.