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Cameron can sympathize with Byrd

By Nick Cafardo
May 23, 2011

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Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron knows and feels Marlon Byrd’s pain after Byrd was beaned Saturday night.

“I was in shock,’’ Cameron said before the Red Sox’ 5-1 win over the Cubs last night. “I couldn’t really watch it too much. I was sitting inside watching it and I saw the ball go into his head and I was just telling him to move, move, move. Same way I do when I see people running into each other in the outfield.’’

When the Cubs’ Byrd was hit on the left side of his face by a fastball from the Red Sox’ Alfredo Aceves that caused multiple fractures, it reminded Cameron of what he endured Aug. 11, 2005, when he and Mets teammate Carlos Beltran collided, both airborne while trying to dive for a ball hit to right-center. It was one of the more gruesome injuries in sports history. Beltran, who was playing right, and Cameron, who was playing center, collided face-to-face. Cameron required surgery to repair multiple facial fractures and missed the rest of the season. Beltran missed about a week with one fracture in his face.

“The face will heal up, the fractures will heal up, he’s always been tough,’’ said Cameron. “It will impact him a little bit when he first comes back, but you just pray that everything kind of stays in there together so he has baseball vision. Not only vision itself, but baseball vision, because this is what the man does. I’ll have to call and talk to him a little bit, see how he’s doing. He’s probably having headaches and stuff right now, pain. But he’ll overcome it, man. It didn’t kill him, so it will probably make him stronger.’’

Byrd has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, and a Cubs spokesman said he has been released from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and was expected to fly home with the team following last night’s series finale. Byrd is expected to be evaluated this week and it’s uncertain how long he’ll be sidelined.

Byrd, who complained about not being able to see out of his left eye after being hit, is expected to experience blurred vision over the next few weeks and he will meet with doctors who specialize in repairing small bones in the face.

The collision Cameron was involved in did a number on his body and his psyche, so he understands what Byrd will have to go through. While the players suffered their injuries in different ways, some of the effects may be the same.

“You can hurt your knees, your hips, and everything else, but man, your eyes, they do everything for you,’’ Cameron said. “It’s really what makes us special, what makes us different from all the professional athletes, because the task of hitting something coming almost 100 miles per hour, and you’re trying to put a solid swing on the ball because of what you see . . . it just dictates so much.

“It’s just a God-given ability, and I think something almost everyone appreciates. For him to have to go through that [stinks], man, because you just don’t know how it’s going to come out. No one knows.’’

Cameron also suffered a severe concussion and a neck injury on the play, and he was asked how long it took him to get back to normal.

“I’m still trying to come back,’’ he said. “It just takes time. Time heals everything as much as possible, and that’s all you can really do. You can work on things, but your God-given eyesight is what you have. Most times, it’s a blessing to have that because there’s really no one else that can do it.’’

And the psychological aspect?

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure [it’s affected him], a little bit,’’ Cameron said. “You won’t ever see me dive when there are three people coming into the same area. It just ain’t happening.

“I’ll pick it up, throw it in, and tell the guy to hit a homer. That’s one experience I learned right there. Until you get carried off on a stretcher . . .

“I feel like I almost gave my life for that, and I love baseball to death, but I don’t think I want to give my life for that. I’ll give it up for my kids, but not going all-out for a baseball and crashing into somebody’s head.’’

Cubs manager Mike Quade said, “Certain things that happen in the game now, and the speed of the game, baseball is dangerous in a different way than football is. It’s a dangerous game and you always have to pay attention. I’m amazed every night when balls get hit into the stands that things don’t get worse.’’

Cameron said he expects Byrd will have some tough moments when a pitch comes in a little too tight to his face and head. Those are things that he will have to work out, such as Cameron did.

Cameron is still amazed that both he and Beltran lived through their collision. And he more than anyone knows the toll it takes to have broken bones in your face.

“It teaches you can endure quite a bit of pain and come through it,’’ he said. “I’m sure Marlon will come out of it fine. He’s a tough guy who loves this game like I do. And, you know, you have to feel the pain sometime to realize how much it means to you.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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