06/25/2010 4:17 PM
Article By: Tristan HobbesCHATHAM ---- A walk-off home run is a special moment for the player and his teammates. Adrenaline and excitement combine to make for a raucous arrival at home plate.
In the past, injury was an afterthought, until Los Angeles Angels first basemen Kendry Morales broke his ankle celebrating a walk-off grand slam last month. Now, bounce time, as it is sometimes called, has been scaled back and the threat of injury has crept into the minds of coaches and players.
“We told them to be careful,” Chatham field manager John Schiffner said. “It’s tough to know when it’s going to happen. But we did mention to be really careful in these situations.”
The Anglers have passed both of their walk-off tests so far without injury. Rick Oropesa (USC) hit a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the 13th to beat Orleans last week and Kevin Vance (UConn) hit a walk-off three-run jack in the bottom of the ninth to beat Falmouth over the weekend. Both were greeted by exuberant teammates at home plate who funneled their energy into jumping and celebratory back-slaps.
“Oh definitely,” Oropesa responded when asked if he was thinking about injury rounding third. “The guys were telling me to take off my helmet going down the third base line and I was like ‘Be careful Rick, be careful Rick.’ I don’t want to get hurt like Kendry or my friend (Tyler) Rahmatulla.”
Rahmatulla (UCLA) was set to join the Anglers for his second summer in 2010. Unfortunately, he will not get that opportunity after being hurt in the Bruins postgame dog-pile after they won their Super Regional. The injury has brought the issue even closer to home for the Anglers.
“It’s awful. Worst news I have heard in a long time,” Schiffner said. “It’s a sad thing. We are all competitors and a celebration is part of it. You just got to be really careful.”
And careful the Anglers were in both celebrations. Oropesa and Vance discarded their helmets before entering the circle of teammates and the celebration quickly dispersed.
“We were very appropriate,” Schiffner said. “Lot of pounding on the back, but no one was on the ground. They were all talking about it after the celebration that no one got hurt.”
Thinking about it and acting on it are totally different things. In the heat of the moment, thinking usually goes out the window as adrenaline takes over. Some players might even forget rounding the bases entirely.
“The adrenaline is pumping and I don’t even remember hitting it,” Vance said of his game-winning blast against the Commodores. “When you see your whole team surrounding home plate jumping around and waiting for you, you get pretty excited and the last thing on your mind is hurting yourself.”
As for the difference between being the one who hits it and the one who is at home plate? It might be a little safer being a part of the mass, but Oropesa made sure to take extra precautions when his teammate was coming home.
“Watch his every step and his every move and look out for the guy,” he said. “Enjoy it, but you got to be safe. You are one injury away from not playing the rest of the summer.”