Baker understands risk of watching spring games from field

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It's a familiar sight in spring training ballparks across Florida and Arizona, managers and coaches watching the game not from the dugout but from folding chairs stationed behind the on-deck circles, on the field of play.

Given how many players there typically are in spring training, and given the less-than-official nature of these games, many managers and coaches like to sit in those chairs to get a better view of pitchers and batters.

All the while, though, they know there are inherent risks to sitting there, with no protection whatsoever from flying balls and bats.

Dusty-Baker-toothpick.jpg"It's dangerous, man," said Nationals manager Dusty Baker, who along with pitching coach Mike Maddux and bench coach Chris Speier sat on chairs outside the dugout during Saturday's game in Jupiter.

The Giants, unfortunately, found out just how dangerous it is yesterday when one of their coaches, Jose Alguacil, was struck in the face by a foul ball during a game against the Royals in Surprise, Ariz.

Alguacil, in his first season as San Francisco's first base coach, was airlifted to a Phoenix trauma center and underwent surgery last night to repair a fractured nose and a deep facial laceration, the Giants told reporters. He also was diagnosed with several small fractures in his left eye socket.

Alguacil tweeted this morning that he is "doing well" and is "ready to go back soon" as members of the Giants breathe a sigh of relief.

Why, given the risk, do managers and coaches keep sitting outside the dugout during spring training games?

"You kind of want to get closer to the game," said Baker, who sits in the dugout at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches but sits outside on chairs at some road parks. "Sight lines aren't the same. From down here, I can't give signs unless I stand up the whole game, and it makes for a long game. So that's what goes into it. Some put up some screens there. It depends on the dimensions and the size of the foul territory there. Here, we don't sit outside. But in some places you sit outside."

Baker knows Alguacil, who was a minor leaguer with the Giants in the 1990s while Baker managed the big league club, and was upset to hear the news about yesterday's incident.

By all accounts, there was nothing Alguacil could have done to avoid getting hit, but Baker reiterated the importance for baseball personnel and fans alike who are sitting close to the action to always be aware of what's taking place on the field.

"Baseball's dangerous," he said. "I don't know how it misses the fans sometimes. The other day, it missed a bunch of fans. It hit the one empty seat there. I urge people to pay attention. It's dangerous. I've seen heads split open. I've seen eyes. I've seen some terrible accidents out here on the baseball field."

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