ST. PETERSBURG — College basketball analyst Dick Vitale, a Sarasota resident and longtime Rays season-ticket holder, got a scare when he was struck in the stomach area by a foul ball on the first pitch of Thursday's game.
Vitale, sitting in the second row on the aisle to the right of the third-base dugout, said he was okay, just bruised. He iced it and stayed to watch the rest of the game.
"It was scary. It was a bullet," said Vitale, who turned 71 on Wednesday. "I've been here for 11 years; never had a line drive come to me. Maybe a popup.
"I don't know how that happened."
The Hall of Fame broadcaster was hosting a couple who had bid money through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program to attend a game with him. He let them sit in the front row and was talking to them when the ball was hit by Blue Jays left-hander Fred Lewis.
"ESPN called me," Vitale said. "Rece Davis, the host of Baseball Tonight, called me up: 'You okay? We were just watching. We're going to have you on."
Vitale didn't leave empty-handed. He said Jays manager Cito Gaston sent over a signed ball. So did the Rays, one with autographs of manager Joe Maddon and special assistant Rocco Baldelli along with a message:
"Dick, Keep your eyes on the field. Ha. You're always our favorite. All the best."