Coach Returns To Team After Losing Eye

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Atlanta Braves minor-league manager Luis Salazar returned to camp Wednesday, two weeks after being struck in the face by a foul ball and losing his left eye.

“I’m very fortunate to be alive,” Salazar said. “God gave me a second chance in this life, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

He hopes to join his Class A Lynchburg team in April near the start of the Carolina League season.

Salazar was standing on the top step of the dugout when he was struck by Brian McCann’s line drive during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 9. He was knocked unconscious and airlifted to the hospital.

Doctors could not save Salazar’s eye and it was removed on March 15. After a week in an Orlando hospital, he spent a week at his home in Boca Raton, Fla.

“I feel really good and this is a big day for me,” Salazar said after meeting with Braves players and staff. “I shook hands with all my friends.”

McCann visited Salazar several times after the injury.

“Brian McCann is a very sensitive kid and he was worried about my health,” Salazar said. “We talked for about three hours. I told him what happened could happen to anybody. I told him move on and forget the incident.”

The 54-year-old Salazar said he’s probably two to three weeks away from resume his minor-league duties. “I’ll take it day by day,” he said. “But I’ll be fine.”

Salazar, who played 13 years in the major, is in his first year in the Braves organization. He was invited to camp early to familiarize himself with how the Braves run their major league camp and was helping out during exhibition games.

Salazar doesn’t remember much of what happened. At first, it was feared that he had stopped breathing.

“Nothing is wrong with my brain,” Salazar said. “That is the greatest news that I heard.”

The native of Venezuela said he appreciated the prayers and well wishes of those in baseball and beyond.

“I appreciate everyone who prayed for me,” Salazar said. “A lot of people care about me. In difficult times, that is when good friends show up. And that is what happened to me.”

McCann is amazed at his resilience.

“His attitude is off the charts,” McCann said. “He’s looking at (losing his eye) as a positive with what could have happened. He’s alive. That’s the most important thing.”