SAN FRANCISCO -- In a strange way, Mike Matheny may not have been managing the Cardinals against the Giants on Monday at AT&T Park if not for his experience playing there with the Giants in 2006.
Matheny was knocked out of baseball's player ranks by concussions -- as many as 25 of them over the course of a 17-year professional career. He suffered the last of them in May 2006, when Matheny absorbed three foul tips off his catcher's mask in the span of six games.
"I didn't plan on being one of the poster boys for that," Matheny said. "That wasn't part of my exit strategy from the game. But it did happen."
In the years since, Major League Baseball and other organizations have adopted much more proactive approaches to head injuries. In 2011, MLB added a seven-day disabled list for concussions and adopted a series of protocols to govern the treatment of players who suffer from them.
"It is a heightened awareness, I believe, not just in our sport, but all across the board," Matheny said. "And I think people are starting to get to the point to realize this is a brain injury. The term 'concussion,' I think, almost lightens what's really going on there. It is not necessarily a severe brain injury, but it can lead to it if not looked at seriously."
Matheny praised Giants general manager Brian Sabean and then-head athletic trainer Stan Conte for being "forward-thinking" about his own health issues, but Matheny was never able to play again. He took a job in the Cardinals' player development department and was named the club's manager last Oct. 31, after Tony La Russa retired.