ANAHEIM, Calif. – Openers come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and emotions. The Angels' on Monday night was the rarest of all: Grotesque.
A night that could have, and maybe should have, been triumphant – Mike Trout, fresh from signing a six-year, $144.5 million, said hello to 2014 by smashing a two-run homer against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in his first at-bat of the season – was far from it.
Not only did the Angels cough up a two-run lead in a 10-3 loss and watch their bullpen completely melt down by surrendering seven runs – six in the ninth – they also endured the loss of their new hitting coach in one of the most bizarre incidents you will ever see.
Don Baylor suffered a fractured right femur while receiving the ceremonial first pitch from former outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who had signed a one-day contract to retire as an Angel.
Yes, you read that right.
Guerrero's pitch was low and away. Baylor crouched and across his body to backhand it. As he did, hit right leg gave out.
He was on his way to UC Irvine Medical Center for tests before the season's first pitch. He will undergo surgery Tuesday.
"It got me sick while I was warming up," Trout said. "I wish him the best."
"It just kind of sucks, the first day," second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "It's not how you want to start the season."
Between the loss of Baylor and the drubbing the Mariners delivered, the Angels were a shaken club afterward.
Most of them saw Baylor, 64, go down. He tried to get back up, but his leg immediately gave out and he fell back down. Trainers helped him off the field.
"It's sad," slugger Albert Pujols told USA TODAY Sports. "He's our hitting coach."
It brought back memories of another miserable opening day moment here in 1999, when first baseman Mo Vaughn, who had signed as a free agent from Boston over the winter, fell down the steps in the visiting dugout attempting to field a pop foul on the first play of his Angels debut and badly sprained his ankle. One of the biggest free-agent signings in club history at the time, Vaughn was sidelined for more than two weeks.
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It also brought flashbacks of another freak, painful moment that happened within steps of Baylor at this same home plate: It was in May, 2010, when Kendrys Morales smashed a game-winning home run and then suffered a badly fractured ankle while leaping onto the plate to celebrate. Morales missed the rest of 2010 and all of 2011.
The Angels hired Baylor away from the Diamondbacks over the winter. It was supposed to be a triumphant homecoming for the man long ago nicknamed "Groove", who starred for the Angels from 1977-1982.
"Groove was a big part of what we are doing here," Kendrick said. "We're praying for him and his family.
"You don't wish that on anybody."
Aside from his highly productive bat and friendly clubhouse demeanor, Baylor was most known as a player for remaining stoic when he was hit by a pitch. And there were a lot of those moments: His 267 hit-by-pitches ranks fourth all-time in baseball history.
"Great dude who knows what he's doing," Trout said. "It was a freak accident. It was scary.
"I didn't like looking at it."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Don right now," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously, it's a freak thing."