LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Luis Salazar has no recollection of the stressful hours that followed after he saw Brian McCann's foul ball nearing his left eye. But the Braves Minor League manager has fond memories of the support he's received over the past two weeks and a sense of excitement as he is nearing the opportunity to begin working again.
"I'd like to thank God that I'm talking to you guys and that I'm alive," Salazar said. "God gave me a second chance in this world, and I'm going to take advantage of it. I really appreciate it."
Salazar returned to Champion Stadium on Wednesday morning for the first time since March 9, when he was knocked unconscious and airlifted to an Orlando, Fla.-area hospital after he was struck by a line-drive foul ball that McCann yanked into the first-base dugout.
Wearing jeans and a purple golf shirt, Salazar walked through the same dugout on Wednesday morning without any hesitation or reluctance. Exactly two weeks earlier as he remained motionless in the dugout, players looked with concern at the coach's blood-covered face while the paramedics could only detect shallow breathing.
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"I don't remember anything," Salazar said. "I just remember the ball in my eye. It felt like a missile in my eye and that's the last thing I remember."
There was relief when Salazar regained consciousness and more reason for celebration when doctors determined he didn't suffer any brain damage. But surgeons were unable to save his left eye.
When he arrived, Salazar was seen wearing sunglasses. But while talking to a group of media members, he spoke without anything covering his face, which showed less bruising and swelling than expected just two weeks after he suffered multiple facial fractures.
"The good news for everyone and all the people that prayed for me and all the fans of the Atlanta Braves is there's nothing wrong with my brain," Salazar said. "That's the greatest news that I heard. That made me feel good.
"I'm going to be fine. I'm going to be working normal like everybody else."
Salazar was scheduled to visit one of his doctors on Wednesday afternoon. But all indications are that once his facial fractures heal over the next two weeks, the 54-year-old manager should be able to assume his duties as Class A Advanced Lynchburg's manager.
While visiting a doctor on Tuesday, Salazar was cleared to begin driving again.
"I don't remember anything. I just remember the ball in my eye. It felt like a missile in my eye and that's the last thing I remember."
|-- Luis Salazar|
"He's tough," said Braves director of medical services emeritus Joe Chandler. "I can imagine what kind of player he was, because you can just tell. He approached this with tremendous attitude and mental toughness. The man is incredible. It's a credit to him."
Salazar enjoyed a 13-year Major League playing career that included stints with the Padres, Tigers, White Sox and Cubs. His post-playing career has included managerial and coaching stints with multiple organizations.
As he prepares for his first full season with the Braves, Salazar feels somewhat overwhelmed by the support he's received, courtesy of visits from former Braves skipper Bobby Cox, team president John Schuerholz, general manager Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and a group of other coaches and players.
Chandler often visited Salazar twice a day while he was in the hospital to help him and his family.
"I want to thank the Atlanta Braves organization," Salazar said. "They have supported me 100 percent, from the general manager to the president to the bat boys. Being down here today made my day. It was really a good feeling to be around the clubhouses today."
Salazar also gave thanks to Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez, Mets manager Terry Collins, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and his many other friends from the baseball world who have reached out to offer their best wishes.
McCann made multiple visits with Salazar in the hospital and took time to meet with him again for about three hours at a Disney-area hotel.
"Brian McCann is a very sensitive kid," Salazar said. "He's worried about my health and stopped by a couple of times. Last night, they came by the hotel, and we talked for about three hours with his wife. I talked to him about, 'It can happen to anybody. ... Thank God that I'm talking to you right now.'"
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.