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Span hits mom with foul ball

Span hits mom with foul ball

TAMPA, Fla. -- Twins outfielder Denard Span struck his mother, Wanda Wilson, in the chest with a foul ball while batting in the first inning on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Span was leading off the game against the Yankees' Phil Hughes when he fouled a 3-2 pitch directly to the left of the visitors' third-base dugout, where a group of friends and family members were settling in for the game.

The ball struck his mother, who was sitting three rows from the field and wearing a Twins jersey with Span's name on it, with a thud that was audible to the players on the Minnesota bench. Span immediately dashed into the seating bowl, consoling her as help arrived.

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"It just seemed like everything was in slow motion when I hit the ball," Span said after arriving back in Fort Myers. "I had no idea she was sitting there. I didn't see her before I got up to the plate. But as soon as the ball was in the air, I realized it was going after my mom. When I saw her go down, I couldn't do anything but just run after her and make sure she was OK.

"When it first happened, I kind of froze a little bit. I couldn't believe it actually hit her. I kind of froze. When I actually realized what happened, that's when I took off running."

Paramedics stationed at the stadium checked on Wilson, and while she reported being "sore," she declined to go to a local hospital and instead remained at the stadium, seeking a seat in the shade to rest and watch some more of the game. Span said his mother was administered an electrocardiogram at the stadium.

"Tell everyone that I'm all right," Wanda Wilson told The Associated Press hours later by telephone. "Everyone was so worried, he was so worried. But I'm all right."

After checking on his mother, Span completed his at-bat, looking at a called strike three from Hughes. He planned to exit the game at that point, but when the Twins extended the inning, it gave Span time to check in with family members and hear that Wilson was doing fine. So he opted to join his teammates on the field in the bottom of the first.

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Span remained in the game for another two innings, at which point Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter pulled him aside and encouraged him to be with his mother.

"He was just like, 'You go see about your mom,'" Span said. "I was already feeling that way, but to have him say it to me, I was like, 'You know what? He's right.'

"Mentally, my mind wasn't into the game. It was on her well-being. That's my mom."

A Tampa native, Span had left about 20 tickets for friends and family to attend the game. It was to be his last homecoming before beginning the grind of the season.

The Twins will fly to Minnesota following their final Grapefruit League game on Thursday against the Orioles, and won't return to Tampa until August.

"I've hit foul balls and I've hit a fan before, but I've never actually seen somebody hit someone that they know or someone that they love," Span said. "This has been a crazy day. It was just a weird day. I'm thinking I'm getting to go home and play in front of my family and have a good day."

"I know it tore him up pretty good," said Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson, who was serving as Minnesota's acting manager for the split-squad game. "She's doing well, they said she's fine and he got a chance to be with her. I'm sure he'll probably buy her a nice dinner tonight and nurse her along."

Upon hitting the foul ball, Span said he heard his mother's scream and knew instantly that it was her. When he arrived in the stands, Wilson wept for several moments.

"That's what hurt me the most, was when I heard her crying," Span said.

There is a vertical net behind home plate on the field level at the Yankees' spring home, but it does not stretch all the way to the dugouts. Wilson was sitting in an area of five-seated rows that is unprotected.

"It's kind of a really dangerous spot," Hughes said. "I think they should move the nets all the way in to the dugout, because you can get those foul balls like that, arguably coming back harder than if a guy just nicks one and it goes back to the screen.

By contrast, the net at the Twins' Spring Training home, Hammond Stadium, extends from one dugout to the other. Span said he would like to see more parks like it.

"I thought that even before today," he said. "It's hard to pay attention to every single pitch. Sometimes you're coming down from the concession stands or whatever, and boom, all of the sudden a ball's coming at you. You can't control that. A hitter can't control it. It's just a bad situation. It's just surprising that nobody has gotten seriously hurt to this point."

"That is kind of weird that something like that would happen," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was managing the other half of the split squad in Fort Myers. "I'm glad she's OK."

Bryan Hoch and Anthony DiComo are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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