BOSTON - DJ Stewart knows that there’s nothing funny about a concussion. He can smile now at the circumstances. He’s watched the video. But as someone who’s suffered multiple head injuries, he takes them very seriously.
The Orioles reinstated Stewart from the injured list this afternoon and he’s starting in right field tonight against the Red Sox, his first game since attempting a sliding catch on Aug. 6 at Camden Yards and taking a fly ball off the left temple.
Stewart was in left field that night, in a shift with the Yankees’ Mike Ford at the plate, and lost his footing while racing toward the line.
“We were kind of playing him to pull,” Stewart said while standing outside the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park. “He kind of hit the ball off the end of the bat. I knew I had to book it to get over there. Kind of ran in first and then realized I need to go over a little bit, but I think my body and momentum was already down to the ground, was already on the ground.
“I looked up and realized ... I’d see if I could catch the ball, but I knew I wasn’t going to be make the catch and just tried to protect myself, but wasn’t able to and it hit me right in the side of the head.”
Manager Brandon Hyde and assistant athletic trainer Patrick Wesley checked on Stewart and he finished the inning in the field. He came out for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half.
“Right after the play happened I was fine,” he said. “It just kind of progressively, as that inning continued, I felt more pressure in my head. Didn’t really feel as much dizziness.”
His condition worsened after he got back to the bench.
“Didn’t really know some things that I should have known,” he said. “But didn’t really feel anything bad as soon as the play happened. I felt like I was ready to go. I think the training staff did a great job of assessing me out there, but once I got in the dugout they assessed me again.
“You never know with concussions. You can get the symptoms right away, they could not come and then come later on, so you never know. They did a great job of handling that situation, but as the inning went on I felt a little bit more pressure and it was the right decision for me to come out.”
The advice he’s received over the years is framed to protect him.
“Most important is not to push it faster than you should be because your brain, you only get one of them. There’s no transplant or anything like that,” he said.
“There’s life after baseball, as well. I want to have kids and I want to teach them, and I’ve had concussions before, playing football. It’s not my first time having it and obviously, if you’ve had multiple, you want to err on the side of caution with that, so just not to push it. Even though I want to get back here as soon as I can, just not to push it, and be cautious with it.”
The replay was a source of humor for some, a major league player being hit on the head by a fly ball.
“I watched it one time,” he said. “Everyone seems to tag me in it. I’m not a good baseball player. I can’t catch a ball. But I’ve seen it once.
“It was just a baseball play and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the play. I’m looking to redeem myself and show that I can actually play defense for the guys who think I can’t.”
Tonight it’s in right field at Fenway Park.
“I’m always eager to play,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where I play. I played right field here last year when we came here. Jonesy (Adam Jones) went to left and I went to right. It’s a big area out there, but for me it’s a big opportunity to show that I can go both ways and make plays for our team.”
He has to stay healthy in order to do it.
There also was the sprained ankle in Texas that put him on the injured list.
“I’m really looking forward to it, hopefully be able to stay on the field a little bit longer,” he said. It’s obviously been something kind of new for me. I’ve never been hurt in my career, and for this stuff to kind of come back to back, it’s been tough for me, but glad to be back and hopefully stay out there and stay safe and contribute to the team.”
The injuries are costing Stewart a chance to seize a job and avoid the trip back to the minors.
“Very upsetting,” he said. “Every time I’m not on the field and I see those guys go out on there on the field every day, I’m sitting there watching. I’ve never been in that situation, so it’s something in my career that I have to deal with and just learn from it and know that I can’t do anything about the situation. Just go out there and not try and do too much and make up for time or anything. Just go out there and be myself.
“I know I can play this game. Just go out there and play.”