“It was one of the loudest and worst ball-hitting-somebody I’ve ever seen,” said Matt Joyce, who was stationed in right field.
“It was loud,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It was just loud.”
And as that sound registered with everyone inside the dome, Cobb fell to the front of the mound and grabbed the right side of his head.
The building quickly grew silent.
Ronnie Porterfield, the Rays’ head athletic trainer, was by Cobb’s side in a flash, signaling for the rest of the Rays medical staff. Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey ran to the mound. The Rays who were on the field knelt on the infield turf.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” first baseman James Loney said. “I saw the blood coming out (of his ear). It’s just one of those things where you’re hoping and praying.”
Remarkably, Cobb was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Team officials said tests conducted Saturday night at nearby Bayfront Medical Center came back normal. He was kept overnight for observation.
Rays pitcher David Price, who followed Cobb to the hospital, said Cobb was laughing and joking with the nurses.
“He seemed pretty normal,” Price said.
And pretty lucky.
The play happened in the top of the fifth inning of the Rays’ 5-3 victory against the Kansas City Royals. It was eerily similar to one that happened May 7, also at Tropicana Field, when Toronto pitcher J.A. Happ took a line drive from Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings off the left side of his head. Happ suffered a small fracture and a cut. He is still on the disabled list.
The Rays were leading 3-2 when Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer lined a 91-mph fastball back at Cobb. According to the Sun Sports telecast, the ball came back at Cobb at 102 mph.
It ricocheted off Cobb’s head and landed a few feet in front of the plate. Rays catcher Jose Lobaton picked it up and threw to Loney for the out.
“I saw a good pitch, a good hit and then I just saw the ball at the head,” Lobaton said. “After that, my reaction was looking for the ball, throw the guy out at first. I saw him bleeding. I don’t know what to say. I just saw him there, and it was a really tough moment for everybody.”
Said Maddon, “It’s a very, very scary moment that, hopefully, appears to have turned out well for everybody.”
Cobb was moving his legs while lying on his stomach. Porterfield asked Cobb questions to keep him talking. Price said Cobb told him at the hospital he was mad at Porterfield, because he wanted to stand up and Porterfield wouldn’t let him move.
After a few minutes, Cobb was placed on a stretcher, immobilized and taken off the field through the tunnel behind home plate. His father, Rick, who was at the game, accompanied him to the hospital in the ambulance.
From his Twitter account, Cobb later tweeted: “Can’t thank everyone enough for the prayers. Was the only way for me to make it out of there OK. Look forward to getting back out there.”
“It is amazing that he is in the condition I feel he is right now,” Price said. “He feels good, just the normal stuff. He’s a trouper, man.”
The subject of pitchers’ safety was raised after Happ’s injury. Cobb said at the time he would be in favor of wearing some type of protective head gear as long as it didn’t interfere with his pitching.
“Whoever comes up with the solution for this, they’re never going to have to work again in their life and probably generations of their family won’t have to work,” Price said. “It’s scary, it’s part of it, we know about it. We think about it. You never think about it when you’re on the mound, because that will never have a positive outcome, but when you see it happen, you see line drives and hard ground balls up the middle, it definitely does cross your mind.”
Hosmer said he was going to visit Cobb in the hospital with former Rays James Shields and Elliot Johnson.
“It’s scary, man,” Hosmer said. “I honestly didn’t want to run to first. I just wanted to see how he was doing.”
Rays pitchers Alex Torres, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson dressed and headed to the hospital.
“It’s awesome, the fact he appears to be fine, because the moment it happens you immediately imagine the worst, you absolutely are,” Maddon said. “I’ve seen it. I’ve been involved in it in the amateur level. You’re seeing it on the professional level. It’s a fast game, and that ball is very hard. … We’re just fortunate it hit him as it did. You got to give our medical people some credit right there. The way Ronnie came out, he took command of the situation immediately. They had their signs down. They knew exactly what was going on. The way they mobilized and got him out of there was very impressive.”