Given their sometimes inconvenient positioning on the field, it's almost inevitable that an umpire will find himself in the line of fire and at some point wear a line drive. Unfortunately for veteran Angel Hernandez that moment came during Friday night's game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
As the second base umpire, Hernandez was positioned on the infield grass to the first base side of the bag in case of a stolen base attempt. It's basically the prime position for a field umpire to get hit, because he's the closest to the plate he'll be the entire game and he's wide open on the field of play. Sure enough, Nate McLouth smoked one that was ticketed for right center field but ended up clipping Hernandez's left ankle.
It was a bad break for the Nationals. With Bryce Harper in motion, he would have easily advanced to third if the ball made it through. It didn't.
You could also say it was a nice break for the Braves, which may explain why some fans broke out in cheers.
Of course, another theory going around is that Hernandez's reputation as a controversial umpire — see the botched home run review in Cleveland last season — precedes him, and the smug manner in which he handles his on-field confrontations hasn't endeared him to managers, players or fans alike. In other words, the fans were just happy to see Hernandez get lit up by a liner.
It's entirely possible, because it was just last season that retired Braves legend Chipper Jones encouraged fans to boycott games umpired by Hernandez based on his track record. A boycott is tough to coordinate ahead of time, but it's definitely easy to boo or cheer him when you know he's in the stadium.
Not that fans have ever have been shy about expressing their opinions on Hernandez regardless of location.
To put it simply, if baseball gods really do exist, some prayers were probably answered in Atlanta. Hernandez wasn't injured. Chances are he wasn't humbled. But it wasn't a comfortable night at the office.
BLS H/N: Larry Brown Sports
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