The best play at this weekend's spring training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves didn't take place on the field — it was in the stands, where a man's fast reflexes saved a young fan from being hit in the face after a bat hurtled into the stands.
In an instant that's frozen in time, the barrel of the bat looms just inches away from the boy's nose and eyes, with the man's hand and forearm blocking its path.
It's always dangerous when a batter loses his grip and sends a bat helicoptering into the stands. And from what we see of this incident, it might have done significant damage to the boy, who seemed to be caught completely off guard as he held a smartphone in his seat in the stands. We'll remind you that in the majors, players use wooden bats that commonly weigh more than 2 pounds.
The moment came and went so fast that it wasn't mentioned in write-ups about the game. (The Pirates beat the Braves, 9-6.)
But then a photo of the save emerged — and then the photographer who took it, Christopher Horner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, released another image that hints at the bat's violent force. Taken a split-second after the first photo, it shows that when the bat narrowly cleared the boy's head, it had already spun around 180 degrees.
The incident occurred at the Braves' spring training stadium in Florida, part of the Walt Disney World resort complex outside Orlando.