Prayers follow ballpark accident

Boy, 4, injured after ball hits him in stands



NILES — The identity and condition of a 4-year-old boy hit Wednesday night by a line drive off the bat of a Mahoning Valley Scrappers player remained undisclosed Thursday, as fans who witnessed the incident remained in shock.

Jessica Stephenson of Austintown was watching the game from a seat in the front row along the first base side of the field. She said the baseball came toward the boy so fast, she knew that anyone getting hit by it was going to be hurt.

“The ball was hit so hard and so quick. I think the audience knew whoever got hit was not getting up very quick. And for it to be a little boy is heartbreaking,” Stephenson said.

She, her sister, her boyfriend and her sister’s boyfriend were sitting about 20 seats away from the boy and the two adults with him at the time.

The boy was in the front row just about 10 seats away from the Scrappers dugout, she said.

Stephenson said she turned her head when she heard the ball hit the bat, then saw the ball hit the boy in the head/neck region and then heard the woman scream.

“Someone needs to call a doctor,” the woman said in a panicked voice, Stephenson said.

The man picked up the boy, whose legs were kicking, and carried him quickly toward a ramp leading to the concourse. Ambulance personnel standing by attended to him from there, officials said.

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Scrappers GM Dave Smith

Despite the kicking, the boy didn’t appear to be conscious and wasn’t screaming, Stephenson said.

“It was just absolutely horrifying,” she said.

Dave Smith, general manager of the Scrappers, said the boy went to a Youngstown hospital but didn’t say which one. Smith said he didn’t know the boy’s condition.

Spokespeople from St. Elizabeth Health Center and Akron Children’s Hospital said they could not look up any information on the boy’s condition without having his name.

Smith said the injury, which occurred during the second inning of the second game of a doubleheader, appears to be the worst one in the 11 years the professional minor league team has played here.

“I don’t remember an incident in 11 years that has concerned us as much as this one,” Smith said.

A couple of fans are generally injured every year by baseballs, but Smith said he doesn’t recall a previous incident involving a child this young being struck this hard.

“Everybody’s concerned when it involves such a young child. Everyone here’s just hoping and praying that this has a positive outcome,” Smith said. “We’re like everybody else — waiting to hear,” he said Thursday from his office at Eastwood Field behind the Eastwood Mall.

Eric Hamilton, who covered the game for The Vindicator from the press box, said the game came to a stop for a couple minutes after the boy was injured. Soon after the game resumed, the sound of the ambulance leaving the stadium could be heard, Hamilton said.

Stephenson and Hamilton said the people in the stands seemed to realize what had happened, and the mood throughout the ballpark became solemn, including that of the players.

Scrappers Manager Travis Fryman talked to his team after the game about the accident, told them that the injury was serious and asked them to keep the boy in their prayers, Hamilton said.

Off-duty Niles police officers were working the game, but the department did not investigate the incident or file a report. A private ambulance company provided the ambulance and workers under a contract with the Scrappers. The Niles Police Department did not have any information on the accident.

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