PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks were sickened by what they saw on video last night, and it had nothing to with their loss to San Francisco.
The D-backs’ thoughts the day after were with former hitting coach Don Baylor, now with the Los Angeles Angels, after he suffered a broken right femur while catching a ceremonial first pitch from Vladimir Guerrero in the Angels home opener Monday night. Baylor’s ankle appeared to twist as he reached for the pitch and his leg buckled as he tried to get to his feet before being helped to the dugout by Angels personnel.
It is a video you can only see once.
"Horrible. It took me awhile to shake," D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill admitted after he saw it.
Baylor is a survivor of multiple myeloma, but one of the side effects of the cancer is it attacks bone marrow and weakens the bones. Baylor is expected to miss several months.
"I watched it, and I don’t want to watch it again," D-backs catcher Miguel Montero said. "That was really, really ugly. He is a great guy. I’ll be praying for him."
Baylor was the D-backs’ hitting coach from 2011-13, and under his tutelage Justin Upton blossomed, finishing fourth in the 2011 NL MVP balloting after hitting .289 with 39 doubles, 31 home runs, 88 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. All the totals are career highs.
Hill credits Baylor for helping get him back on the right track after joining the D-backs from Toronto at the 2011 trade deadline. Hill was an integral part of the D-backs’ stretch run, and he was the 2012 NL Silver Slugger winner at second base after setting a career high in extra-base hits, slugging percentage and OPS.
He was awesome. He helped me rejuvenate my career, so to speak," Hill said.
"He was there every single day with me in 2012. He was with me day-in, day-out. In the cage, just kind of getting things back to simplifying my approach. My swing. He knows my swing very well. I had a great time with him. He’s awesome. He’s so damn strong. He never complains about anything. He would walk around with a broken leg and wouldn’t tell you. You hate it for anybody, especially ‘Groove.’
"You never like to see anybody hurt, but especially a Teddy Bear like him."
Assistant hitting coach Turner Ward was promoted to replace Baylor this season after he returned home to coach the Angels. Baylor was the 1979 AL MVP, when the Angels made the postseason for the first time in franchise history.
Baylor kept in contract with the D-backs, and he sent a text message to the coaching staff wishing them good luck on their two-game season-opening series in Australia against the Los Angeles Dodgers. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, who hired Baylor in 2011, said he sent Baylor a text Tuesday and plans to speak to him a few days after the surgery.
"It was kind of ugly. I feel for him on that one," Gibson said.
"Great coach. I love him," Montero said. "He’s a great human being. Hopefully he gets better and we will see him back on the field soon."
Baylor was a major league manager for 10 years with Colorado and the Chicago Cubs, leading the expansion Rockies to the 1995 playoffs in their third season, then a major league record. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy matched moves with Baylor for eight of those seasons after taking over in Seattle in 1995.
"That was awful, just awful. To break your femur when you are catching a first pitch, that’s a tragedy," Bochy said. "You have to feel for him to have to endure surgery and the pain. He’s such a good guy, well-respected around baseball. It’s such a freak thing. It could happen to any of us. That shows how tough he is, trying to get up."
Baylor’s injury is the second gruesome, freak accident suffered at the plate area in Anaheim Stadium in the last four years. Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales suffered a fractured left ankle as he celebrated a walk-off grand slam against Seattle on May 29, 2010. Morales leaped o the plate but landed awkwardly, and he missed almost two seasons after a first surgery did not repair the damage.