Don Baylor, batting coach for the Los Angeles Angels never thought he would be injured during the ceremonial first pitch before the teams home opener. However, that is exactly what happened when Baylor received a toss from Vladimir Guerrero on March 31.
Guerrero signed a one day contract with the Angels earlier in the day so he could announce his retirement.. While the Angeles was not Guerrero’s first team or only team during his 19 year career, Los Angeles was where he had some of the best years of his career including winning the American League (AL) MVP award in 2004. The only other Angel to ever win the AL MVP award was Baylor in 1979.
To honor Guerrero, he was set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to fellow AL MVP Baylor prior to the start of the Angels first home game of the 2014 season. Guerrero took to the mound just hours after retiring with Baylor taking his place behind the plate. Baylor, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003, had returned to the Angels as a member of the coaching staff in October of 2013. Multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects plasma cells in a persons bone marrow.
Guerrero, not expecting to see Coach Don Baylor get injured during a Ceremonial first pitch, was all smiles. Guerrero’s career had just ended, and people were cheering as the only two AL MVP’s took to the field to start off a new season.
Don Baylor likely did not expect to be injured when he took a knee behind home plate to receive Guerrero’s toss for the ceremonial first pitch of the game. With cameras surrounding the mound and home plate areas, Guerrero smiled and tossed the ball to Baylor. Baylor appeared to lose his balance as he caught the pitch and roll his ankle underneath him causing him to fall to the ground.
Baylor spent 18 years as a player the Major Leagues with 7 teams. While he was with the Angels, he was named the 1979 American League RBI champion and a All Star the same year. In 1987 he was a member of the Minnesota Twins World Series Championship team. The following year Baylor returned to the A’s for his last season as a player.
Baylor spent time with a couple clubs on the coaching staffs until 1993 when he was named the manager of the expansion Colorado Rockies. As the Rockies skipper he was named the 1995 National League Manager of the Year. Baylor has continued managing and coaching over the years which led him to the Angels as a batting coach. Having the Angels first MVP on the coaching staff when the most current MVP for the team was retiring seemed perfect.
When Baylor fell to the ground, Guerrero thought that it was all a joke and trotted from the mound to home plate to find that Baylor was really struggling to get up. Guerrero helped Baylor to his feet, but as the batting coach made a move to head to the dugout it became apparent to everyone that something was not right. Baylor’s right leg buckled with his first step and he had to be helped off of the field.
Don Baylor had no idea that the ceremonial first pitch from Guerrero during the festivities of the home opener for the Angeles would result in him having to head to the hospital with an injured leg, let alone a broken femur. There is no word on when Baylor will be able to return to the Angels.
Commentary by Carl Auer