All things considered, Salazar is a lucky man. A week ago, Salazar was standing on the railing at the top of the Atlanta Braves dugout during a spring training game between the Braves and St. Louis Cardinals when Braves catcher Brian McCann hit a line drive that struck Salazar in the face and knocked him unconscious. Salazar had to be airlifted to a medical facility in Orlando. In addition to losing his left eye, he also sustained multiple facial fractures. But Salazar is optimistic that he will recover and be able to manage the Braves Class-A affiliate in Lynchburg, Virginia.
I can’t emphasize enough that Salazar is a lucky man. Mike Coolbaugh, who was a first base coach with the Colorado Rockies Double-A affiliate in Tulsa, was struck in the head by a line drive during a game in July 2007 and died as a result of his injuries. Coolbaugh’s death resulted in all first base and third base coaches at all levels of professional baseball being required to wear batting helmets on the field.
I used to watch a lot of Detroit Tigers games in my teens and I remember Salazar when he played for the Tigers during the 1988 season. He was a guy who could play both in the infield and the outfield and had a decent bat. Salazar made a good career of being a utility player and spent 13 seasons in the majors. In addition to the Tigers he also played for the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox and the San Diego Padres. In fact, Salazar was a part of the Padres 1984 National League championship team.
Salazar will undoubtedly have a lot of challenges in recovering from this injury. But Salazar is a baseball man. He will find a way to return to the baseball field and make the most of this second chance.