ST. PETERSBURG — The slight discomfort Shawn Riggans felt Monday and the nasty bruise he'll undoubtedly soon have were mild compared to the potential danger of being hit in the chest with a 90-plus mile-an-hour fastball.
"Death," Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield said. "A punctured lung. Fractured ribs. That's what you worry about."
Riggans was fortunate to escape Sunday's scary incident with only what he called a "deep, deep, deep bruise" on the right side of his chest, and he realized it when he got back to his apartment after the game.
"I just sat there for about 15-20 minutes, and I was just thankful," Riggans said. "That's just not meant to be. It's not good to get hit with a ball period in the chest, but a 90-something mph fastball, it's something else. That's a whole different league."
There are 10-20 deaths a year caused when athletes are hit in the chest by a ball, according to the Boston Globe, often young children and typically immediate, though the location and timing of the blow are also issues.
Riggans, 28, said it was "definitely one of the scarier things" he'd been involved with, more so than when he was hit on the helmet by a pitch.
Manager Joe Maddon concurred. "I'm not often frightened about a situation — guys get hit in the head and that's awful, but a lot of times you see it's a glancing blow and they have a helmet on — but when you get hit where he got hit, and the velocity with which he got hit, that was a bad moment," he said. "I was really concerned."
Though Riggans felt well enough to stay in the game, the Rays and their doctors watched him closely and X-rayed and examined him extensively afterward, and Porterfield called him several times during the night to make sure he was okay. Riggans' neighbors also came by to check on him, and his dad and sister called several times.
Riggans, who pinch-hit Monday and went to leftfield, could have avoided contact if he'd turned his back to Fernando Rodney's pitch as hitters are supposed to, but he said he was already "cheating" to start his swing and couldn't turn the other way.
"I'm just fortunate it hit me where it did," Riggans said.