Anderson: The year of catcher concussions

From R.J. Anderson at CBS Sports on September 28, 2017:

In September 2011, in the embers of an otherwise forgettable game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox, A.J. Pierzynski laced a pitch into catcher Alex Avila’s face. The ball struck Avila’s mask at the speed and angle necessary to generate sparks. Everyone remembers the fireworks. That’s why “The Early Show” replayed the clip the next morning, and that’s why the play remains hosted all over YouTube, on Major League Baseball’s official channel and other channels who, presumably, lack baseball’s express written consent.

Watching the scene unfold in 2017 is a surreal experience. The announcers’ “look’ at that!” giddiness strikes the wrong note from the jump. Then there’s unsettling visual of Avila’s head snapping back, which didn’t seem to move either the Tigers’ trainer to check in on Avila, or Detroit’s manager to remove Avila from the game. The most shameful reaction to the play isn’t portrayed in the clip: that would be the public address system blaring “Ring My Bell” in an uncaring nod that, yeah, Avila had probably been concussed moments prior — but so what?

In the six years since, some things have changed. The world and professional sports have become more cognizant of concussions and their ill effects. One thing that has not changed, however, is the potential for a catcher to suffer a brain injury on any given pitch.

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Originally published: September 28, 2017. Last Updated: September 28, 2017.