That's Hiroki. He's 38 years old and he pitches for the New York Yankees. Last night he found himself in the most perilous position a pitcher can be in. He had a line drive coming right at him, and as he ducked out of the way he put up his bare hand to try to stop the ball. In doing so, he made an already dangerous situation potentially more dangerous, both for him and his team. Hiroki could have seriously injured his pitching hand trying to make a play like that, and in the process seriously injured his team's chances of maintaining a strong starting rotation and winning baseball games. Hiroki's not the first pitcher to do this, but his case brings about the perfect opportunity to remind all pitchers out there about the safe, correct way to handle this situation.
What Hiroki should have done was not even bother trying to put any hand up in the first place. It was bad enough that he had missed his spot with the pitch and thrown it over the heart of the plate where the hitter can square it up and hit it right back at him. Exposing his bare hand to a ball coming back at him at that high a speed made the situation worse. He could have broken his hand, or at least a finger, and he could have changed the trajectory of the ball and cost one of his teammates behind him a chance to cleanly field the ball and record an out.
But in the heat of the moment, pitchers don't always think with a "safety first" mindset, and that's understandable. There's another option that Hiroki had in this situation, another option that would have been safer, and smarter, than throwing his bare pitching hand up in the air. What's that option, you ask? Why it's simple; just put up his other hand with the baseball glove on it. I know, it seems a little odd. But trust me, a baseball glove can be used for more than just hiding your hand while you adjust your grip on the ball before throwing a pitch, or for hiding your mouth from wandering eyes while you talk to your catcher during visits to the mound. It's primary function is actually to catch baseballs, be they hard hit ones or softly hit ones, and it is designed to allow a baseball player to do so safely and correctly. Had Hiroki remembered this during the play you see above, he might not only have been able to stay in the game, he might have even caught the ball and made an out.
Now Hiroki was lucky. He only suffered a bruise to his right middle finger. But not every pitcher is as lucky as Hiroki and that's why it's important to always remember these safety tips in a situation like this. You may think that in a bang-bang, split-second play like the one Hiroki was in that you don't have time to remember these safety tips. Well that's where you're wrong. There's ALWAYS time for safety, even in situations where there might not even be enough time for your brain to process what's happening.
So, pitchers. The next time you find yourself in a situation where a line drive is coming right at you, remember these 3 rules:
1) Get out of the way so it doesn't hit you.
2) Don't even try to throw a hand up to catch the ball, especially not your bare hand.
3) If you must put a hand up to try to catch the ball, make sure it's the hand with a baseball glove on it.
Remember these three things and you won't have to leave a game early with an injury. This has been a public service announcement brought to you by the men and women at IIATMS/TYA.
(GIF used courtesy of Mike Axisa/RAB. Other photo courtesy of NBC, probably.)