A second after Joey Dyche dove head-first and felt his body slam into the outfield wall, he knew something was wrong. As he laid crumpled on the warning track of the field in Lancaster, Calif., he thought to himself, "Not again."
"My whole body just jarred. It knocked me out for a second," he said of the incident in late April. "I thought I'd broken my back, and I knew there was something wrong with my left side. I thought my ribs were gone."
Dyche was recovering from Tommy John surgery that had cut short his first full season. Despite a late start to spring training after months of rehabilitation, he already had been promoted to high Class A San Jose by the Giants after a strong start in Augusta, where he hit .288 in his first 18 games.
He was advancing faster than most players in his draft class.
Then came April 26, his second day for San Jose. His family had traveled from his hometown of San Dimas, watching him play for the first time this season. They hadn't even sat down when Lancaster's Mark Wagner hit a ball into the right-center field gap on the first pitch of the second inning.
Off sprinted Dyche.
"The wind is just nuts out there, swirling everywhere," he said. "It seemed at first like a routine pop-up, but it just kept tailing away. It just kept going and going."
Dyche thought he was running at a different angle than he actually was, diving alongside the wall and not into it.
"After seeing it, everybody said they don't know how I didn't break my neck," Dyche, a seventh-round pick of the Giants in 2005, recalled. "When I came to, it was more a feeling of disbelief than anything. I was just thinking, 'You've got to be kidding me. This can't be happening again.'"
He didn't break his neck - just ruptured his spleen, bruised his bladder and broke his thumb.
While he waited in the emergency room, he began having trouble breathing because his body was filling with blood. He was in surgery 15 minutes after he was examined, leaving him with a scar that runs from his chest to his navel.
The injury was supposed to end his season, although it could've done much worse. He was in the hospital for a week and home a month, where he lost 25 pounds.
By June 28 Dyche was playing again, for the Giants' rookie-league squad in Arizona. He homered in his first two games and hit safely in the first eight, finishing with a .308 average through July 17, when he returned to Augusta.
Dyche, who's gained about 20 pounds back, entered Monday with a .256 average. Although he wasn't supposed be able to play this summer, he aims to work his way back up the system. But he sees things a little differently now.
"It puts a lot of things in perspective. (Baseball) was something I took for granted, I guess, and now I'm definitely more aware of my surroundings," he said.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.