Road Warriors center fielder Kenny Kelly never broke his stride as he raced across the outfield and onto the warning track to try to catch a deep fly ball hit by the York Revolution's Ramon Castro in the bottom of the first inning Monday.
Road Warriors right fielder Michael Mooney shouted "Wall!" as Kelly stepped on the warning track, but Kelly never slowed down. The ball hit his mitt and popped out when he slammed into the wall, hitting his left shoulder and face against the unpadded concrete wall.
"He was going almost full speed," Mooney said. "It wasn't pretty. He split open his chin pretty bad ... one of the worst I've ever seen."
Mooney noted he once saw a player dive into an outfield wall, which resulted in a ruptured spleen. But Kelly's collision was "the worst" Mooney had ever seen.
Kelly collapsed on the warning track, unresponsive. His eyes rolled back in his head, Mooney said. Mooney immediately motioned for medical assistance. Orthopedic & Spine Specialists athletic trainer Bob Burton raced to the outfield.
Moments later home plate umpire Eric Diaz signaled with his hand and shouted for someone in the press box to call an ambulance, but the call had already been made and the stadium's on-duty White Rose emergency medical services and a doctor on-site from Orthopedic & Spine Specialists hurried to the outfield.
Fitted with a neck brace and placed on a backboard, he was taken from the field in an ambulance.
A league official confirmed Kelly suffered a concussion, facial fracture and needed stitches.
Kelly was discharged from York Hospital late Monday night and returned to the Road Warriors clubhouse.
A two-sport athlete at the University of Miami, Kelly played a combined 17 games at quarterback for the Hurricanes during the 1998-99 seasons.
A second-round draft pick by his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1997 amateur baseball draft, Kelly concentrated on baseball after the 1999 NCAA season. He reached the big leagues with Tampa in 2000 and returned to the majors with the Reds in 2005.
Kelly did not play professional baseball for the last three seasons. Just four games into his comeback with the Road Warriors, he was looking for his first hit. He had never played at Sovereign Bank Stadium before Monday.
The stadium's lack of padded walls has been a concern for players since its opening on June 15, 2007. That weekend, then-York manager Chris Hoiles, wondered why the new ballpark didn't have padding on the outfield walls.
Playing with caution "isn't the way these guys play," Hoiles said in June 2007. Hoiles feared a player could tumble into the wall, possibly hitting his head.
"It might not only end a player's career, it might end his life," he said.
Players, some of them angry, stopped to ask reporters during that first season what the front office had to say about the matter.
The front office maintained it wasn't unusual for minor league walls to remain unpadded. Former York general manager Matt O'Brien also noted that the Green Monster at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field didn't have padding.
And it doesn't sound like the latest incident will change anything about the walls - which feature advertisement banners but no padding.
"I think it's unpleasant to watch in person, but when you look at the number of baseball games played across the country on any given day and the relative rarity of an incident like that, I'm not sure it changes a whole lot," Revs president/general manager Eric Menzer said. "The bottom line is the players are aware of the conditions they're playing in and their style of play."
It's true other ballparks around the Atlantic League don't have padding, but other ballparks in the league typically have chain-link or plywood fences and not concrete walls.
"That's the first time it's happened since I've been here," said York manager Andy Etchebarren, who began managing in York in August 2009. "It's something to look at down the road."
In the franchise's first few seasons, play needed to be stopped after York outfielders Matt Esquivel and Kaz Tanaka came in contact with concrete walls. York's outfielders have learned to help one another avoid bad collisions.
"If someone's getting close, you let them know, even if it's before the warning track," York center fielder Scott Grimes said. "Talking is the key, especially when you're going full speed. We have a better idea than (Kelly) does, because we play here a lot more. But we still need to know where we are at all times.
"(Padding) would help - immensely. I mean, it's still going to hurt (if you run into the wall), but anything would help."