In the first reported injury of its kind at the Major League level, Yankees backup third baseman Eric Chavez may miss Spring Training due to bruised ribs suffered when he was hit by a pitch during a Wiffle ball game. Chavez appeared in 58 games for the Bombers in 2011, and club officials had indicated a willingness to retain his services for the 2012 season.
With a sheepish grin, Chavez lifted his shirt to give a bevy of reporters a glimpse of the light purple, ball-shaped bruise on his right side, including the unmistakable grooves of the trademark children’s play toy.
Chavez had just completed an off-season workout when he stopped by a neighborhood playing field to enjoy watching some pre-teens play the game. When the children grew excited by his presence and encouraged him to join, he couldn’t say no.
“I was that age once, too, and it’s all about the fans, anyway,” Chavez said.
Things took a turn for the worse after Chavez went deep on the first three pitches he saw.
“It was a blustery day, and the ball was really carrying,” Chavez said. “My first few swings produced tape measure homers, but then the pitcher’s demeanor changed. I think he felt I was showing him up.”
The pitcher? Twelve-year-old southpaw Shannon “The Cannon” Johnson, who would neither confirm nor deny a blood relation to former fireballing Cy Young winner Randy Johnson. “The Cannon” also had a different take on things.
“The pitch got away from me. And the wind took it, just like the wind took his,” Johnson said defensively.
Chavez had never been hit with a Wiffle ball before, and he was shocked by the damage it did.
“I never would’ve expected it to bruise anything, but the kid threw hard,” Chavez recalled. “It was a wicked four-seamer, and it gained speed as it got closer.”
Johnson disputed the notion.
“It was a change up,” he said. “Look at how light that bruise is. I’ll bet he already had that from soaping himself up in the shower.”
A club official – speaking on condition of anonymity – indicated preliminary negotiations were under way with Johnson’s parents.