The ballpark was silent, save for the haunting wail of an ambulance. Outside Surprise Stadium, medical reinforcements arrived for Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
The moment occurred in the sixth inning of an otherwise typical Cactus League game that was called immediately after. Chapman was taken to a local hospital. Cincinnati manager Bryan Price told reporters he suffered a laceration and a contusion above his left eye. He never lost consciousness and was able to communicate, but the incident still haunted both clubs.
Later reports indicated Chapman suffered a fracture above his left eye and would be kept at Phoenix's Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center overnight for observation.
Upon impact, the baseball cracked against Chapman’s skull and rebounded back toward third-base line. Perez placed his hands on his helmet before he reached first. He hunched at the waist, and walked toward the growing crowd surrounding Chapman. Blood pooled on the mound.
“It was an absolute bullet that Sal hit,” manager Ned Yost said. “It’s just a real sickening feeling for everybody.”
Chapman remained down for eight minutes. Players kneeled in both dugouts. Some bowed their heads. Other crossed themselves.
After a wait that felt interminable, medical personnel rolled Chapman rolled onto a backboard and loaded him into a cart. The ambulance waited outside the park.
During the intervening minutes, Yost met with Price and the umpiring crew. There was no sense in continuing, they decided.
“It was really a mutual agreement,” crew chief Chris Guccione said. “Players were rattled. The staff was rattled. The umpires were rattled. We figured it was best, along with both teams in agreement that the game should end.”
As he left the field, Perez appeared to be weeping. Eric Hosmer hugged him as he entered the dugout. Perez declined to speak with reporters. He left the clubhouse quickly.
Last June, Hosmer played a similar role in another frightening incident. He struck Rays pitcher Alex Cobb in the head with a liner at Tropicana Field. Cobb suffered a concussion, but eventually returned later in the season.
Because it was the regular season, that game continued. Yost was relieved to end Wednesday’s game. He could not foresee a productive ending to the evening, not with both sides so upset.
“I didn’t want to go on,” he said. “My players didn’t want to go on. They didn’t want to go on.”
For the Royals, there was little evidence to comfort them. Yost could only say so much to his catcher, a 23-year-old who plays in such a joyous manner, a “real caring guy,” Yost said.
“You can’t really tell him ‘Don’t feel bad about it,’” Yost said. “Because we all feel bad about it. But it wasn’t anything that he tried to do, or meant to do. It was just something that happened.”
When reporters walked into the clubhouse, the atmosphere was tense. Mike Moustakas instructed a team official to ask the group to leave. “No one wants to talk,” he said. Hosmer concurred, and suggested Thursday would be preferable.
“It wasn’t a fun thing to watch,” Yost said. “It wasn’t a fun thing to see. There’s really not much you can say.”
Billy Butler tweeted: “Just feet from the mound tonight reminds me that we are all brothers in Baseball. My thoughts prayers are with Chapman the #Reds#MLB”