Royals relief pitcher Blaine Boyer is not a hero.
Or so he declared Tuesday afternoon at the Rogers Centre, some 36 hours after he took the wheel of the Royals’ chartered bus on a highway in Toronto and successfully steered the team to safety after a large sheet of ice cracked the bus windshield and shards of glass hit the driver.
“I’m fine — we’re fine,” he said. “I’m not a hero. It’s crazy!”
An apropos word to describe the Royals’ last two days. After extreme cold forced the Royals to postpone Sunday’s series finale at Kauffman Stadium, the team’s plane to Toronto was delayed for three hours as a spring storm halted travel in the Upper Midwest. The Royals landed at Pearson International Airport around 11 p.m. and a convoy of two buses departed for the team hotel within 45 minutes.
But part of the way through what should have been an uneventful trip into the Yorkville neighborhood, a sheet of ice slipped off the roof of the lead bus, carrying staff members, and smacked into the windshield of the bus that was carrying players.
“We saw another huge piece that just missed the bus,” Boyer said. “We could hear ice sliding all over the place, off our bus even. I made the comment to somebody, was like, ‘if that ice hits another car…that’s gonna be interesting.’ And then, shoot, 10 minutes later, boom.”
The sound was so loud players panicked and hit the floorboards to shield themselves. Then Boyer glanced up from his spot near the front of the bus, where he usually sits, and saw driver Fred Folkerts covered in blood. Boyer sprung to action, checked on the driver and took the wheel from him.
"Fred just absolutely nailed it ... he's the man," said Boyer, again deflecting credit for his role in steering the bus to safety.
Boyer navigated the bus a short distance to the side of the road. The Royals were stranded. Again.
It wasn’t until about 2 a.m. that they made it to their hotel. It turns out they didn’t need much sleep, anyway, as Monday’s game was postponed when another free-falling chunk of ice thwarted their plans and punctured a hole in the roof of the Blue Jays’ domed stadium. They played a doubleheader Tuesday.
“It’s been crazy,” Boyer said. “A couple of us went and ate sushi and we were walking back, and I don’t know what building it was, but it was one of the buildings here, and we saw three huge chunks falling off the building and it hit a car that was just parked.“
As for the bus, no one on the vehicle was seriously injured.
"The bus driver was full of glass," Royals manager Ned Yost told MLB.com. "They got pulled over, but it was pretty scary there for a little while for the guys on the bus."
Royals strength and conditioning coach Ryan Stoneberg shared what happened on Instagram.
"While driving from the airport to the hotel through brutal cold conditions, ice from the roof of the staff bus flew off and hit the windshield of the trailing bus," Stoneberg wrote. "The windshield was smashed, glass flew in the face of the driver, and one of our players had to assist with steering the bus to safety on the highway. I am so glad that all our players are safe due to quick action of our team and the steady nerves of the driver."