Danley struck in head by broken bat
Home-plate umpire diagnosed with mild concussion
TORONTO -- Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas was waiting for Kerwin Danley to get back up, but the home-plate umpire remained on the ground, motionless after being struck on the side of the head by a bat on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.
It was a scary moment that quickly quieted the ballpark during the top of the sixth inning in Texas' 5-4 victory over Toronto. With one out, Rangers designated hitter Hank Blalock offered at the first pitch he received from pitcher Roy Halladay, shattering his bat on contact and sending a large piece of the barrel flying over a crouched Barajas.
The splintered piece of wood struck Danley on the right side of his helmet, causing the veteran ump to collapse behind home plate.
"It didn't sound good. It was a pretty loud thump," Barajas said. "I was just hoping he'd get right back up and kind of shake it off, but his eyes were closed. He wasn't making any movements and he wasn't talking. That's a bad sign."
During a 10-minute delay, Toronto's medical staff and coaches from both clubs hustled onto the field to tend to Danley. A neck brace was carefully placed around the umpire's head, and he was placed on a stretcher and taken off the field on a medical cart. Danley was then transported to Mount Sinai Hospital and diagnosed with a mild concussion.
Before being removed from the field, Danley could be seen talking to those around him. The umpire never lost consciousness after being hit by the bat, and crew chief Dana DeMuth said Danley's first responses were encouraging.
"He was in a lot of head pain and didn't want to talk," DeMuth said. "But he knew where he was and he said he had feeling in everything."
It marked the second time in two seasons that Danley suffered a head injury behind the plate.
On April 26 of last season, Danley was struck in the jaw by a 96-mph fastball from pitcher Brad Penny during a game between the Dodgers and Rockies. The 47-year-old Danley -- a veteran of 12 seasons as a big league ump -- was carried away in an ambulance after that incident, but he made a swift recovery, returning to umpiring duties in early June.
Following that injury, Danley began wearing a more protective helmet, one similar to those worn by hockey goalies and many Major League catchers. DeMuth said Danley's latest head injury might have been much worse without that particular helmet.
"He wasn't cut or anything," DeMuth said. "The bat got all helmet and that's a good helmet to have for it, because a lot of us don't wear stuff where the protection is [on the side and back of the head] and I believe that's where it hit him.
"That's why he has the helmet he has. That gives him the extra protection. That's a very good helmet to have -- it's just very uncomfortable. But when you got a delicate head and you've had head injuries before, it's one of the best things to have."
Danley showed positive signs before being taken to the hospital, but that didn't make it any less unnerving for the coaches and players standing close by.
Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill, who missed the final four months of last season due to post-concussion syndrome, said it was hard to regain focus immediately after Danley went down.
"You hate to see that happen, especially something to the head," Hill said. "There's been so many things happen to some umpires the past couple years -- broken spine, concussions, all this stuff -- that luckily they've come back from. Hopefully, he doesn't have to deal with anything too severe."
Over the past few years, there has been growing concern about the use of maple bats, which have seemed to shatter more often and easier than other types of wood. The bat used by Blalock against the Blue Jays was made of ash, avoiding any more fuel to that controversy.
DeMuth said maple bats, and whether they are a realistic problem, are not a main cause of worry among umpires.
"We can't be concerned about that," DeMuth said. "You don't even think about that stuff as an umpire when you're back there. Otherwise, you'd be doing all sorts of motions and ducking and all that. That's the last thing you think about, broken bats."
DeMuth said that he and the rest of the crew, including umpires Hunter Wendelstedt and Doug Eddings, planned on heading to the hospital to check on Danley late Tuesday night. Blalock planned on staying at the stadium until he was able to get in contact with Danley.
"I felt really bad," Blalock said. "I heard he was OK -- it's a mild concussion. So, I'm kind of hanging out to make sure I can get a hold of him to apologize and make sure he's OK."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.