Boy hit with foul ball OK; gets visit from players
Laird and Johnson visit young boy, as does Gomez, who hit liner
ATLANTA -- Instead of exiting Turner Field on Tuesday night thrilled by the sensation of having caught Julio Teheran's shutout, Braves backup catcher Gerald Laird was one of the many players and fans who were primarily concerned about the status of a young boy who had been hit in the head by a Carlos Gomez foul ball.
"When you come to a game, it's supposed to be a fun time for family and friends," Laird said. "It was just one of those unfortunate situations. The best part about it is everyone is OK and he's doing fine, and he's going to be able to come back and enjoy a Braves game."
The family of the young boy has chosen to keep their identity and status updates private. But when they visited the boy in the hospital, Gomez, Laird and Braves third baseman Chris Johnson all gained a sense that he was going to recover from the resulting injuries.
"We just wanted to put him in some good spirits and make sure everything was all right," Johnson said. "It was good to hear everything was going good and hopefully, he'll be back at a game soon."
Having received tickets from a friend, the boy's father brought his son to his first Major League game and provided him the treat of sitting approximately four rows above the Braves first-base side dugout. Unfortunately, these prime seats put the child directly in line to be drilled by the foul ball Gomez lined into the stands during the seventh inning.
"I heard it hit something," Johnson said. "Then I saw his dad immediately grab him and take off. That's when you knew, especially with the sound it made. It sounded like it hit two barrels -- off Gomez's barrel and then off another one. It's scary stuff, I'm just glad he's all right."
A father of two, Gomez said he had trouble sleeping until around 5 a.m. ET on Wednesday. After getting a few hours of sleep, the Brewers outfielder gained some relief when he visited the boy in his hospital room.
"The important [thing] for me is to have the opportunity to talk to him and see him and stay with him for [about 30 minutes]," Gomez said. "He was really happy."
While Gomez was able to interact, the boy was sleeping when Laird and Johnson arrived at the hospital around 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The two Braves players could still see blood around the boy's left ear as doctors ran tests.
But by Wednesday morning, Johnson and Laird were informed that the boy had awoke to the thrill of finding the various autographed items they had brought to the hospital. Each of the Braves players signed a bat, and Laird left one of his autographed catcher's mitts.
"Sometimes, there's more to the game than just playing the game," Laird said. "You want to make sure everything is OK. We just wanted to go over there, make sure he was all right and let the family know we were thinking about them."
Teheran had planned to send his mother the ball with which he recorded the final out of Tuesday's shutout. But he has instead decided he will give it to the injured boy.
"He's a young kid and he's here to enjoy the game and watch Major League players play baseball," Laird said. "Next thing you know, he's in the hospital. But the best part about it is he's doing all right and he's going to come back and enjoy a game with his family. That's the most important thing."
As Braves fans learned of Gomez's hospital visit on Wednesday afternoon, many of them took to Twitter to express that they had changed their feelings for the high-energy Brewers outfielder, who drew ire in Atlanta last September, when his animated home run trot when former Braves catcher Brian McCann would not allow him to reach the plate.
Memories of that incident and the benches-clearing incident that followed led many Braves fans to heartily boo Gomez this week. But it seemed like the perception changed on Wednesday.
"The Braves fans [are] being so nice to me and the media, especially," Gomez said. "They tweeted, 'You're a really good man.' Life is crazy. Before they hate me, now they love me."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.