ST. LOUIS — It was a most unusual error on a baseball field.
A skydiver parachuting in before a summer league game accidentally kicked shortstop Mattingly Romanin in the face, knocking him to the ground and, it turns out, ending his season. The 20-year-old Mattingly said Wednesday he had a concussion and was trying to take the bizarre mishap in stride.
“Obviously I was a little upset and kind of frustrated about how the whole situation developed,” he said. “It was a freak accident. It happens. There’s nothing really I can do, I’ve just got to move on and make sure I’m healthy and ready to play.”
Romanin and his Hannibal Cavemen teammates are part of the Prospect League, a summer wood bat league for college players with 11 teams in six states. Hannibal hosted the Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex on Saturday.
The Cavemen were on the field as the national anthem was played, followed by three local skydivers jumping onto Clemens Field, the historic old ballpark in Mark Twain’s boyhood home of Hannibal, Mo., about 100 miles north of St. Louis.
“It was pretty cool,” Romanin said. “I’ve never been part of something like that. I was enjoying the experience.”
The first skydiver landed without incident. The second, however, was dropping in a hurry, too close to a group of players standing behind second base — Romanin, second baseman Jake Mangler and third baseman Jerod Smith.
Cavemen general manager John Civitate said one of divers was supposed to arrive with an American flag at the end of “The Star Spangled Banner,” but the jumpers’ timing was off and they were late.
As the second skydiver veered toward Romanin and his teammates, Mangler and Smith jumped out of the way, but Romanin stood his ground — he said members of the skydiving crew told players to stand still because the divers would miss them.
Romanin said he tried to duck at the last moment, but it was too late. He was hit near the temple and knocked over. Medical personnel tended to him and he got up after several minutes.
Romanin recalled his immediate response: “Wow, really? That just happened?”
Then he seemed to recover, playing all nine innings but going hitless in Hannibal’s 7-3 loss.
Headaches worsened that night and persisted. He said a doctor on Monday determined he had a concussion. After consulting with his coach at Chicago State, he decided to shut down for the summer season. Romanin also suffered a concussion in the spring after being hit in the head by a pitch.
Romanin hit .218 in 38 games with the Cavemen. At Chicago State, the Ontario native hit .284 last season as a sophomore after hitting .311 as a freshman.