Seven weeks after Shannon Stone was killed while tumbling over a railing at Rangers Ballpark, tragedy nearly struck again.
The Associated Press reports that a 24-year-old man was knocked unconscious after falling 21 feet in a stairwell while leaving the stadium. Police are investigating the incident as an accident.
“It doesn’t appear that there’s any foul play that’s involved,” police lieutenant Bobby Mason said after talking to people who were in the man’s group and other witnesses. “There wasn’t any fighting or anything like that going on.”
Mason said his understanding was that the man’s condition was improving after being transported to a hospital. There was some blood in the area where the man fell.
“At this point in time, hopefully it’s going to be better than what we thought when he left,” Mason said.
The indicent happened near the home-plate gate and was out of sight from the field. It was before the end of the game, so the flights of stairs taking fans from the upper deck to ground level were not crowded.
“What we can say for sure is, for whatever reason, he falls from the railing area up there between the third and second landing, and he fell 21 feet,” Mason said.
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.