There’s an empty ballpark and then there’s a silent ballpark, and if you found yourself at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, you witnessed the painful difference.
When Masahiro Tanaka took a Giancarlo Stanton line drive to the right side of his head, barely a half hour into the Yankees’ spring training 2.0 launch, his teammates halted all other activities and focused their collective gaze on the mound, where club trainers tended to the lateral right-hander. Someone possessed the good sense to turn off the music that had been blasting on the public-address system.
Aided by a trainer on each side, Tanaka walked shakily from the mound to the dugout at 3:36, five minutes after he went down, and the news grew more encouraging as the day progressed. By Saturday night, he had been released from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital after passing “a battery of tests,” including a CT scan, as per Aaron Boone, and Tanaka tweeted that though he still felt some effects of the play, he hoped to return to action before too long.
At 4:40, the Yankees described the pitcher as “currently alert, responsive and walking under his own power.” By shortly after 7 o’clock, Aaron Boone reported Tanaka’s immediate “concussion-like symptoms” had dissipated, a CT scan at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital had come back negative, and the hospital, following “a battery of tests,” released Tanaka on Saturday night.
“The first thing when something like that happens is you worry about a guy’s life,” Boone said
We no longer require perspective, not after the events of the past few months, right? Shoot, Boone followed his Tanaka update with the disclosure that last year’s best Yankee, DJ LeMahieu, as well as pitcher Luis Cessa aren’t here because they tested positive for the coronavirus. No, Tanaka’s scare sobered us at a time when we’ve never been more soberly aware of the world’s frailties.
“It’s definitely horrible,” Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery said. “I hope he’s OK. I’m thinking and praying for him right now.”
Montgomery, whose turn to pitch followed Tanaka’s, admitted to being “a little timid” and “squirrelly” after seeing the freak accident, and that prompted him to ask for the protective L-screen to be placed in front of him, which some pitchers prefer and some don’t. How could he not, after seeing that?
Though Montgomery’s spoken thoughts are appreciated, the images themselves, in the moments after Tanaka collapsed to the mound, his right leg bobbing up and down as he held his head, spoke to the moment even more powerfully. The exit-velocity stud Stanton, having taken a Mike Fiers fastball to his head and suffering serious physical damage back in 2014, immediately crouched to the ground in knowing agony. Many players knelt, their furrowed brows displaying the concern that their masks hid.
Stanton walked to the periphery of the mound to check on Tanaka, and as he hovered, his concern clear, Aaron Hicks understandably violated social-distance mandates and put his arm around his fellow outfielder to console him. An upset Aaron Judge, meanwhile, urged media members not to take video of Tanaka receiving care and later took to Twitter, with Gleyber Torres backing him up, to voice such grievances, though most of the video came from the Yankees’ own YES Network.
Once we get more clarity on Tanaka’s status, as soon as Sunday, we can discuss the frightening scene’s baseball consequences, with Luis Severino already out for the season rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery. And we can return to focusing on whether this whole endeavor will even work or whether COVID-19 will prove too strong a foe. Shortly after Tanaka’s accident, another well-known starting pitcher, David Price of the Dodgers, opted out of the season due to health concerns.
On this momentous day of sorts, such context figured to be critical. When a guy takes a line drive to the head, however, context turns wholly irrelevant. It’s a horror if we’re amidst a pandemic or not, if it happens to a good team or a bad one, if it’s July Fourth or a standard workday.
“That’s kind of a freak accident that’s a one-in-a-million chance of happening,” Montgomery said. “It’s terrifying especially if it’s a teammate and a friend.”
Hell of a first day back to work for these guys. Hell of a year for all of us. After seeing this ballpark silenced, suddenly an empty stadium with good vibrations sounds rather appealing.