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12/07/12 6:30 PM ET
Hunting mishaps aren't without precedent
By Tracy Ringolsby / MLB.com
Ray Knight, traded from Cincinnati to Houston in December 1981, did a double-take when he got his first contract from the Astros. Former Houston general manager Al Rosen had included a clause that listed hunting among the taboo sports. "Understand, Ray was a south Georgia boy," said Barry Axelrod, a special assistant to Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers who used to be an agent, and included Knight among his clients. "He said, 'There's no way he can tell me I can't hunt.'" Knight solved the dilemma by buying an insurance policy that would cover his Major League contract if he was injured while hunting. Maybe San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes needs to give Rosen a call for some advice. Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner could miss the first two months of the 2013 season after he suffered a lacerated tendon in his right thumb while dressing out a deer during a recent hunting trip. But then, it's hard to put athletes in a bubble and protect them from all outside influences. In 1979, California Angels third baseman David Chalk was sidelined when he sliced his right index finger while trying to butter a roll with a plastic knife. And he was on the team charter at the time. And then there was Randy Johnson, the infielder with Atlanta who strained his back putting on his socks. Over the years, players and management have sparred at times over an athletes' offseason activities, but after Jim Lonborg, fresh off winning the American League Cy Young with Boston in 1967, tore up a knee in an offseason skiing accident, baseball created a standard part of its player contracts that lists a series of sports in which players are not allowed to participate. According to section 5(b) of the standard players' contract: "The Player and the Club recognize and agree that the player's participation in certain other sports may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a baseball player. Accordingly, the Player agrees that, except with written consent of the Club, he will not engage in skiing, auto racing, motorcycle racing, skydiving or in any game or exhibition of football, soccer, professional league basketball, ice hockey or other sports involving a substantial risk of personal injury." Rob Manfred, an executive vice president of Major League Baseball who oversees the labor issues, said "individual clubs can negotiate additional activities in contracts if they have concern about a certain player." Towers said when he was general manager in San Diego, the team included surfing in the clause, but made an exception for closer Trevor Hoffman. Derek Bell wasn't as fortunate when he suffered a shoulder injury in a jet-ski accident, which he tried to cover up, only to have several witnesses of the incident surface after word of Bell's injury became public. When Buzzie Bavasi became general manager of the California Angels after the 1977 season, he learned that Nolan Ryan not only owned cattle, but actually worked on the ranch, and tried, without success, to have ranching activities prohibited in Ryan's contract. "What if he gets his hand caught and loses a finger?" said Bavasi. "Then what do we do?" Axelrod said the clauses don't actually prohibit a player from taking part in an activity, but provide clubs with a chance to negate the contract -- or at least a part of it -- if the player is unable to perform because of an injury. An example would be Jeff Kent, who in the spring of 2002 suffered a fractured wrist, which he initially said he sustained while washing his truck, but it eventually came out that he suffered the injury while popping wheelies on his motorcycle. Kent, however, was ready to play when the season started and wasn't docked any salary. "A team has three options if a player is hurt in one of the listed activities," said Axelrod. "The club can make the contract non-guaranteed; it can void the contract or it can move on as if nothing happened." In November 1999, Towers, with the Padres at the time, sent right-hander Andy Ashby to Philadelphia for pitchers Carlton Loewer, a No. 1 Draft pick of the Phillies in 1994, and Adam Eaton. Loewer suffered a compounded fracture of his left leg and ankle when he fell out of a deer blind on Jan. 2, 2000. "He was alone, and had to drag himself more than a mile to get to his truck and find help," said Towers. It wasn't a major financial issue for the Padres. Loewer did not even have a year of big league service time and was making only $225,000. But it was a major ability loss. Released by the Padres after the 2003 season, he appeared in only seven big league games during the seven years he was with San Diego. "He was never the same," said Towers.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.