Rochester (13 WHAM-TV) – Keith Rawlins says he “bleeds” baseball.
“Baseball is almost a religion in this family,” he said.
Rawlins was in the stands with his 15-year-old daughter on July 20th at Progressive Field, watching the Cleveland Indians take on the Baltimore Orioles. The pair was on their way home to Rochester after attending a family reunion and decided to take in a ball game.
Toward the end of the game, Rawlins said the ushers asked his section to leave to make way for post-game show preparations. As Rawlins and his daughter walked with the crowd heading toward the exit, he heard the crack of the bat.
“My face exploded. I knew what happened instantly. I knew I had been hit by a foul ball,” he said. “It was arguably the only ball I’ve taken my eyes off of in 50,000 in the last 15 years.”
Rawlins said he had to be revived in the ambulance, as his blood pressure dropped dangerously low. When he got to the hospital, he needed 10 hours of surgery to reconstruct his face. His eye socket, nose and sinus were fractured. He may never recover vision in his left eye.
Rawlins spent a week in the hospital and racked up $54,000 in medical bills. He does not know how much COBRA will cover. He had the gap insurance as he transitioned between jobs as a machinist. Now he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to work in his trade again.
Rawlins said the Indians have called him a couple times, but have only offered a fan package.
“What I think is appropriate is help me erase the devastating financial hole this has put us in, going from two incomes to one. I just lost a 29-year career that I was at the top of game, in the best shop in the city. I can’t do that anymore,” he said.
13WHAM News was not able to immediately get a response from the Indians.
There’s a disclaimer on the back of the baseball tickets that warn fans to look out for balls. The warning says the team is not liable for injuries. But Rawlins said by asking him to move, the team put him in a position where he couldn’t pay attention.
Rawlins has started a Facebook Page, Make MLB Safe for Fans
. He wants to warn others about what can happen at baseball games. He’d like to see nets similar to those used in professional hockey.
Major League Baseball doesn’t keep track of how many fans are injured at games.
Rawlins doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him. He said he just wants the Indians to do what he thinks is right. He is consulting with an attorney.
“Only would hope they would help me get back on my feet,” he said. “That’s all I want.”