Umpires are used to being struck by baseballs, but they rarely have to deal with it when they’re working the bases. Junior Valentine was a victim of a rare direct hit while umpiring first base in Monday night’s Cardinals-Mets game in New York. He never saw it coming, either.
Valentine was drilled in the face near his right cheek by an errant throw from Cardinals shortstop Edmundo Sosa. The second-year MLB arbiter rightly assumed that Sosa’s spinning, off-balance toss from behind second base wouldn’t get near him. He was focused on making a call as the Mets’ Kevin Pillar was racing for first base.
The throw knocked down and bloodied Valentine, who stayed in the game despite suffering a large abrasion.
Call it an infield hit, times two.
“No one was expecting that. He was pretty far over there,” Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright said, per MLB.com. “That was louder than anything I’ve heard an umpire be hit. I felt really bad for him. What a stud to stay in the game. His face was bleeding pretty good. The ball centered him up.”
Umpire crew chief Jerry Meals said in a postgame statement that Valentine “is doing well.”
“He’s been checked out and has no broken bones,” Meals added. “He was incredibly alert from the get-go. The blood seemed to stop fairly quickly, thankfully, and he was adamant that he was fine.”
Sosa was not ejected for making contact with an umpire. His throw clearly was an accident.
Valentine has been working in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in addition to the majors this year. He made his big league debut in 2020.