Minnesota Twins Kirby Puckett: A reminder why not to throw baseballs at people
By Nate Palmer
The Minnesota Twins and their fans can look into their team’s history to be reminded just how fragile one’s body is when met with an MLB pitch.
The Minnesota Twins and their fans love Kirby Puckett to this day. He was the total package of a player that performed on the field and was also able to capture your heart off of it with his infectious smile and personality. A combination we haven’t come close to seeing in a Twins uniform until maybe this season with the continued breakout of Eddie Rosario.
Memories of Puckett drifted back to my mind this week amidst the controversy surrounding the first pitch thrown by Jose Urena of the Miami Marlins Wednesday, August 15th. That pitch, a 97 mph fastball, found hot-hitting rookie sensation, Ronald Acuna Jr. on the elbow.
Leading up to that Wednesday night game, Acuna had hit eight home runs in eight games and had been, if possible, even hotter since facing off against the Marlins. Certainly, a frustration to have to compete against someone on such a streak, but the Marlins and Urena seemingly chose to not compete. Instead, they decided to plunk Acuna.
I used to never think much of a batter being hit by pitch. Maybe it is age and the reality of mortality setting in or maybe it is the reminder of a career ended too soon like Puckett’s that stands fresher in my mind than it ever did. To purposefully throw a 97 mph fastball at another person is asking for something bad to happen.
All we have to do is go back to that at-bat on September 28, 1995, in the Metrodome to remember what a baseball hitting a person can do. It was a complete accident, but all it took was a Dennis Martinez pitch that Puckett thought was going to break and never did. Since the pitch didn’t break it instead found Puckett square in the face.
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The impact of the pitch broke Puckett’s jaw and blurred his vision. That at-bat would prove to be Puckett’s final of his Hall of Fame career. In the blink of the moment. A pitch that wasn’t supposed to land where it did brought everything that was Kirby Puckett the baseball player to the beginning of the end.
Baseball is a game of inches or even less especially when it comes to pitching and at-bats. So to think we will never see a baseball hit a batter again would be a crazy assumption. What should not happen is pitchers choosing to or being instructed to purposefully try to throw a baseball, let alone a 97 mph fastball, at a player. That 97 mph fastball from Urena on Wednesday could have easily found Acuna’s face instead of his elbow just like Puckett.
That is what makes comments like those from New York Mets announcer Keith Hernandez just sickening. How about this as an idea. How about you figure out how to simply beat the batter within the rules of baseball instead of hitting him with the baseball to send some sort of message.
At 35 years old Kirby Puckett had the chance to play several more seasons of baseball. It was glaucoma that took Puckett’s eyesight and ended his career but the pitch that hit his face was one in a series of events that kept Puckett from playing again. I am just glad that amongst this poor decision by grown men, Acuna will be able to continue and play the game of baseball. And that the fastball hurled at him won’t cause a fate similar to the pitch that was unintentionally hurled towards Puckett.