How it Feels
Home Plate Collisions
RAMON HERNANDEZ Orioles catcher
"Every collision hurts," says Hernandez, who has twice been sidelined by knee injuries sustained at the plate. "You try to put your body soft -- that allows you to take the hit easier. You [want] to catch and secure the ball, get good position and get down quick. If I get hit when I am up high, that's when it's a hard hit. I don't hear the crowd. The only thing I worry about is staying with the ball."
GARY BENNETT Cardinals catcher
The St. Louis backup recalls getting run over by then Dodger Brian Jordan when Bennett was a Padre in 2003 (left). "Fred McGriff hit a double down the rightfield line. The relay came to [second baseman] Mark Loretta. I looked up, and Jordan was at full steam rounding third. I wasn't looking forward to what was going to happen; he was an All-Pro-caliber safety in the NFL. It's not a very good feeling. [Loretta's throw] bounced once, twice, and as soon as I got the ball, Jordan smoked me head over heels. I tore my MCL [and missed a month]. Going into this job, you know this is part of the gig. I don't know if we're brave or dumb. I've got to say dumb."
PAUL LO DUCA Mets catcher
"More guys get hit when the ball is coming in from rightfield because you can't see the runner coming," says Lo Duca. "When the ball is in left or center, you sort of have a feel. What I try to do is give the runner half of the plate. If he sees half the plate, he's going to slide; if he doesn't see any of the plate, he's going to run you over. Brian Jordan had the biggest hit I've ever seen, on Gary Bennett. I felt sorry for Gary because he tried to catch the next pitch and fell down. Brian will go after you."
RAY FOSSE Former Indians catcher
Fosse, now an A's broadcaster, got barreled over by the Reds' Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game. "What bothers me is that Pete denies he could have slid in," says Fosse. "He could have. I didn't expect that kind of hit. He fractured and separated my left shoulder, and I didn't know it -- I kept playing until September 1. I had 16 homers at the All-Star break, and I only hit two more [that year]. My career went downhill. Pete once signed a ball for me and wrote, thanks for making me famous. The collision played into his Charlie Hustle reputation. The irony is that when he went to prison [for tax evasion in '90], it was in my hometown, Marion, Illinois."
JAVY LOPEZ Orioles catcher
"I try to stay away from the runner," says the 14-year veteran. "Unless it is a winning run, I try to just put one foot blocking the plate and the rest of my body out of the way. The worst feeling is when he knocks you out and you lose the ball." Lopez absorbed his worst big league collision in 1994, getting bulldozed by the late Ken Caminiti, an Astro. "He killed me," says Lopez of Caminiti. "He hit me so hard, I was almost in the dugout. I remember the gasp from the crowd. That was the third out, and when I sat down [on the bench], I started to recover. It felt like a car hit me. It doesn't matter how big the player is. The runner always has the advantage."
JASON KENDALL A's catcher
"Gary Sheffield absolutely crushed me. I was in la-la land," says Kendall of a 1999 collision in Dodger Stadium when he was a Pirate. "I kept saying the same three words over and over: 'Did we win?' Our manager, Gene Lamont, had been in a wheelchair [with a strained back] for three weeks, and I asked him, 'Why are you in a wheelchair?' I led off the next inning, and I swung at three pitches in the dirt. Then I went out to the mound and kept asking, 'What are the fundamental signs?' or something stupid. [The next day] I called Gene Lamont at four in the morning and said, 'I better be playing tonight.' I played. For the next two weeks I was dazed. I had a second-degree concussion. But I held on to the ball."
MIKE MATHENY Giants catcher
"The worst hit I've had was in the minors, in Double A against the Cardinals farm team," Matheny recalls. "They had Paul Coleman. He wasn't big [5'11", 200 pounds], but he was fast. I didn't want to show I was hurt, but I was. It was the last out, so I got up and started going to the dugout. Only it was their dugout. What I learned that day was never to flip my mask off. I keep it on all the time for protection. The most important thing when a guy is coming down the line is to get yourself in place and establish a position. You have to stay in place and stay low. The only thing you don't like is guys coming in with elbows high. You know the runner is doing his job, but it still ticks you off. You don't forget."
Issue date: June 19, 2006