I am now officially a Vince Velasquez fan.
Pitching in the second inning last night against my Washington Nationals (they will briefly cease being my team when they face the Red Sox in an inter-league series this week), Velasquez was nailed in his pitching shoulder by 97-mph line drive from the Nats’ Adam Eaton. Rather than fall to the ground screaming—the ball easily could have broken the pitcher’s arm—Velasquez continued doing his job. He went after the deflected ball, throwing off his glove as he ran, picked it up with his left (non-pitching) hand, and threw hard and accurately to first base for the out.
THEN he fell to the ground in agony from the pain in his injured pitching arm. Velasquez was placed on the disabled list after the game, which he left immediately.
From a purely athletic standpoint, the play was remarkable. Velasquez is obviously ambidextrous, and I assume he has thrown a baseball left-handed before. Nonetheless, doing so in a game situation so accurately is astounding. Ethically, which is more important (here anyway), his play demonstrated exemplary character. His first thought was not of himself, though nobody would have thought less of him if the pitcher had fallen to his knees in pain immediately and taken himself out of the play. Velasquez’s immediate focus was on his job, and hid duty to his team. He not only completed the play, but reacted to the circumstances coolly and efficiently, exhibiting courage, diligence, sacrifice, responsibility, and competence.
Vince Velasquez is the baseball equivalent of the hero in a war movie who tosses the decisive hand-grenade into the nest of enemy soldiers after he has sustained a crippling wound.