Participating in sports, even non-contact sports such as baseball, can leave an athlete vulnerable to serious injury. With the proper gear a catcher can still get seriously injured. And, as we now know, without the proper gear in the middle of a fight on the baseball field, a catcher can suffer a career ending injury.
The St. Louis Cardinals backup catcher Jason LaRue announced his retirement from baseball this weekend. While the concussion he suffered from being kicked in the face by Johnny Cueto was not his first, LaRue wants it to be his last.
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Sunday that LaRue has received countless concussions over the course of his career as a catcher; this most recent one was the direct result of the fight on the field between the Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds in August.
Strauss quotes LaRue as saying, “I was going to retire on my own terms. It’s unfortunate that the blow that decided it came from someone kicking me in the head with spikes. I wouldn’t say I would change things if you could rewrite history. They say things happen for certain reasons. In this case, I couldn’t tell you why. Does it suck that my career is over because Johnny Cueto started kicking me in the head? Yes, it sucks.”
I’ll tread carefully here. It’s possible that Cueto was sincerely frightened on the field during that fight. We can’t rule that out. That brawl, although humorous to the extent that baseball players will never really know how to fight, was completely out of hand.
None of us know how we would respond if we were acting out of self-defense, or how horrible our actions might look after it’s all said and done. That being said, this situation has to be dealt with by Major League Baseball. While MLB is becoming an excellent example to other professional sports on handling the treatment of head injuries, we now have a career-ending injury that resulted from a fight on the baseball field. Bud Selig can not turn a blind eye to this and say it’s already been dealt with.
LaRue will head to Pittsburgh to join the Cardinals on their final road trip. Instead of walking through the clubhouse door to play catch with his teammates, he will walk through the doors of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The doctors at UPMC, with their reputation of excellence and vast knowledge of handling head injuries, will make sure that LaRue will be able to play catch with his children again. They will help him understand what he needs to do to make sure a crazy fight between a bunch of guys just taking their job seriously will not destroy his future. The question left is whether Major League Baseball do the same.