A little less than two years ago, former Major Leaguer Jose Offerman, playing for the independent league Long Island Ducks, charged the mound, bat in hand and started swinging. He broke the pitcher's finger, but the catcher he hit, John Nathans, suffered far worse:
He used to catch 95-mile-per-hour fastballs fired by Pedro Martínez, Bret Saberhagen, and Jon Lester in spring training. Now former Red Sox prospect John Nathans catches a large red rubber ball lobbed underhand by a physical therapist . . . sometimes. Other times it bounces off his face and he has to stop because he's dizzy or nauseated. Or worse, he has to go home, pull the covers over his head to shut out the world, and try again tomorrow. He can't tolerate much outside stimuli . . .
. . . Several times a week, Nathans goes to New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Portland for physical therapy. After one drill in which he shook his head side to side for two minutes, Nathan had trouble talking and had to sit down. "The words just won't come out," he says. "I get confused. It's frustrating." Another time, the physical therapist had to prevent him from falling. A third time he buckled up against a wall. "He has decreased tolerance of movement in general, but specifically head movements and bending movements," says Judy Sweeney, a staff physical therapist. "He has signs and symptoms that are consistent with an injury to the right side vestibular system."
Nathans struggles to be normal.
Offerman was arrested and charged for the incident, ended up getting probation and subsequently had his record expunged. There's a lawsuit pending, and he'll likely have to give up some cash too. In light of what happened to Nathan's baseball career, health and life, the punishment Offerman has received seems remarkably insufficient.