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Padres Bullpen Coach Willie Blair Can Relate To JA Happ

USA TODAY Sports

As I'm sure you're fully aware by now, Toronto's JA Happ was drilled in the head by a line drive last night and had to be removed from the field on a stretcher. It immediately brought to mind similar incidents that happened to Chris Young and Brandon McCarthy. One gruesome episode I didn't recall happened sixteen years ago to then-Tigers pitcher and current Padres bullpen coach Willie Blair.

As Danny Knobler of CBS Sports relates, Blair was struck by a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Julio Franco in a 1997 contest. He suffered a broken jaw and missed nearly a month of action. Two-term Padre and current Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail, a close friend of Blair to this day, was on hand and was traumatized by what he saw and heard. Brocail told Knobler that it caused him to alter his approach in that he avoided the outside portion of the plate in order to avoid what happened to Blair. The incident was so troubling that, in their sixteen years of friendship since then, neither Broke nor Blair has broached the subject with the other.

Blair went on to pitch three years and change after that season and one can only imagine the fortitude it took him to silence that memory residing in the back of his head every time he stepped on the mound. I can only hope that Happ makes it back the way he did and can overcome this obstacle with no long-term ill effects.