August 6, 2011; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy (32) in the dugout during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Bigger than the Game: Thoughts on Brandon McCarthy

 

When a line drive rocketed off the bat of the Angels Erick Aybar during Wednesday’s game, I was completely unaware of the ramifications of it’s plight. As the Dominican shortstop made solid contact, I was in the midst of a war with the copy machine in my office while keeping half an eye on the A’s-Angels matinee through MLB Gameday. I was annoyed. Annoyed at the mischievous machine in front of me for malfunctioning. Annoyed at the A’s for currently losing. Annoyed at a possible sweep at the hands of their rival. Annoyed at Gameday for seemingly freezing on a 3-1 count on Aybar. Just annoyed. You see, as much as I love the A’s radio team I hate the obvious delay that occurs upon listening online. I prefer to glance periodically at my phone or computer for updates. Just as I was about to give up and search the twitterverse for an answer, a single notice flashed across my screen. INJURY DELAY: BRANDON McCARTHY HAS LEFT THE GAME WITH A HEAD INJURY. A head injury? I was confused and befuddled. Was there a collision?  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, he was hit by a line drive. Twitter confirmed my greatest fears. The normal jovial collection of A’s fans I follow had lost their sense of snark and ballyhoo. General concern and genuine fear haunted my timeline.

Suddenly the score of the game was irrelevant. So was the pennant chase. The walk-offs. The Pie. The Bernie. I just wanted Mac to be ok. Moments later I watched a video of the tragic event. The noise of impact alone was sickening. The look on his face. The pain. The awkward angle of his arm reaching for his head. The trainers rushing out from both teams. Bob Melvin with his hand on his back, trying to provide comfort but certainly feeling as helpless as everyone else in the stadium. The concerned, worried look of Aybar staring at the mound from first base while speaking to Alfredo Griffin. After what seemed like an eternity, McCarthy finally stood. An applause started to build from the shocked crowd. He slowly began to walk off the field, side by side with head Athletics trainer Nick Paparesta. The applause grew louder, as players from each team joined to clap in unison as he gingerly made his way through the dugout and to the clubhouse.

Despite the ultimate severity of the incident, I tried to tell myself he’ll be fine. I mean he walked off the field. Buster Posey couldn’t even walk off the field. He wasn’t hit in the eye like Bryce Florie, nor was there any visible blood. He wasn’t knocked out, and appeared to be carrying on a conversation with Paparesta just fine. The hospital stay is exactly what they’re saying it is, just precautionary. He might even make his next start. Right?

Thursday, my greatest fears were realized. As I read the official press release, I tried to make sense out of the medical vernacular. Epidural hemorrhage. Brain contusion. Skull fracture. Each diagnosis was more frightening then the other. The news of emergency brain surgery shook me to the core. Again, I was at work. Same stuff, different day. As I attempted to process this information in my head. I left my work space, mentioning something about a break to my co-worker. I walked through the busy streets of San Francisco, not stopping until I hit the Embarcadero on the waterfront. Sitting in silence, by myself on a bench at the pier. I was lost in thoughts. The thing was I didn’t feel bad about the team,or losing another starting pitcher. I didn’t care at all about the 2012 Oakland A’s. As obsessive and as dedicated of a fan as I am, and believe me I am obsessed and dedicated. I thought only of Brandon. Of his wife Amanda.  Of their families. I thought about of my one of my best friends, who passed away from an illness in March an age much too young. I thought about sitting in the ICU with him, and watching him take his last breaths during his final days. Wondering if he could hear me talk. I thought about the sound of the saline drip, and that awful sterile smell that is so prevalent in hospitals everywhere. I thought about my own mortality, and how precious everything in life is. The important things in life are not sports.

I want Brandon to live a normal life. It doesn’t matter to me if he never picks up a baseball again. For all intents and purposes, he seems like an intelligent, articulate, and witty man who can find humor in everyday life. The kind of guy you want to have a beer with. To be friends with. Just this past July, Brandon and Amanda helped raise over $8,000 for victims of the Colorado wildfires through a silent auction. They’re good people, and I hope they know hope much the Athletics community loves them.

The news since Thursday, has been encouraging. He’s making strong progress, has yet to experience a setback, and is in the absolute best care. Reports are that he’s responsive, eating solid foods, and that he even had a good luck message for his teammates before the A’s victory over Seattle on Friday night. Saving the best for last, I’m ecstatic to report that as I type this post Brandon McCarthy has sent his first tweet since the incident. A quip about the strength of children’s tylenol. Glad to have you back 3-2. I’ve never been so happy to read a tweet.

 

 

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