TAMPA — Denard Span's mother settled into her box seat at Steinbrenner Field, surrounded by 20 family members and friends, to watch her son lead off for the Twins against the Yankees.
Uh-oh. Look out!
In a shocking split second, Span, a former Tampa Catholic standout, hit a hard foul ball that struck his mom in the upper chest Wednesday. She was treated by paramedics and back in the stands minutes later.
"Tell everyone that I'm all right," Wanda Wilson, a Tampa resident, said hours later. "Everyone was so worried, he was so worried. But I'm all right.
"We had just gotten there. It happened so fast, you couldn't do anything. … But God is good, I'm okay."
Wilson was wearing a Span jersey and sitting a few rows back near the Twins' third-base dugout. In the first inning, Span took a late swing on the sixth pitch of the game and sent a line drive that hit his mother near the shoulder.
"As the ball was in the air, I realized that it was going after my mom," Span said after arriving back at Twins headquarters in Fort Myers. "When I saw her go down, I just couldn't do nothing but go after her."
Span, 26, ran into the packed stands and stayed with his mother while she got treatment. Shaken, she started to tear up.
"That's what hurt me the most," Span said, "when she started crying.
"They tried to get her to go to the hospital, but she doesn't like hospitals. When I saw her, she had a smile on her face, and she was like, 'Are you trying to kill me?' "
The split-squad game was delayed for a few minutes as she walked to the first aid station. Span returned to the plate and struck out looking on the next pitch from Phil Hughes.
"I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,' " Span said, chuckling at umpire Vic Carapazza's call. " 'I almost hit my mom with a ball in the face, and you want to punch me out on that pitch.' It was close, but it was outside."
The Twins originally said Span would leave the game, but his mother was sitting in a different seat by the bottom of the inning and he went to play centerfield.
"I'm standing there right next to it and I heard it and it's just, 'Oh no! That didn't sound good.' She's on the ground and I'm saying, 'Please don't be the head or something' because it sounded so ugly," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said.
Span flied out in the second. After the top of the third, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter stopped Span on the field.
"Jeter pulled me to the side and said, 'Go see about your mom,' " said Span, who left the game in the bottom half.
"I told her I came out of the game and she got mad at me because everyone came to see me play. She was more mad at me for coming out of the game than me hitting her."
The Twins were more than happy to let him go, and mother and son spent time together for the rest of the afternoon.
The backstop netting at Steinbrenner Field goes from behind the plate to the roof and extends toward the dugouts. Span's mother was sitting a few rows off the field, in the first section where the netting ends.
"It's kind of a dangerous spot," Hughes said. "I think they should move the net all the way to the dugout because you can get those foul balls like that."