It’s not uncommon that a Major League Baseball (MLB) player arguing a call with an umpire gets a little too close and bumps chests or touches the man in blue prompting a fine and and/or a suspension. In a reversal of that scenario, on Monday night during a Detroit Tigers–Baltimore Orioles game, third-base umpire Paul Nauert got a little too close to Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter by touching his face after a benches-clearing altercation.
The ump breaking the contact barrier has prompted MLB to review the incident, according to ESPN.
Hunter came to the plate in the top of the eighth inning right after Ian Kinsler had just launched a 2-run home run against Orioles pitcher Bud Norris (2-3). Norris proceeded to hit Hunter with 94-mph fastball square in the ribs causing Hunter to buckle-over. As Hunter trotted to first base he made a gesture as though he was going to charge the mound in Norris’s direction which elicited both benches and bull-pens to empty on to the field.
The firestorm died quickly and no fights erupted. However, as Hunter continued to shout toward the Tiger’s dugout, umpire Nauert briefly held the outfielder’s face in an effort to calm him down. ESPN reported that Hunter “was taken aback” by Nauert’s gesture, but seemed conciliatory after the game. “That’s my guy,” the right fielder said. “He was trying to cover my mouth. I’ve known him too long [to be upset]. He was just saying to me, ‘C’mon, T. You’re way better than that.’ And he’s right. I apologize to the fans for my reaction.”
According to the website MLive.com, Hunter said he believes that Norris intentionally hit him with the pitch. Norris was ejected from the game for the incident. Hunter responded emotionally when asked if he had been thrown at intentionally, “I don’t know,” Hunter said. “What do you think? I mean, the guy had control. I was actually thinking, ‘He’s got good stuff today. He’s pitching pretty well, and, boy, he just all of a sudden lost it? Get in front of a pitching machine, I want all the people out there to get in front of a pitching machine, put it on 94 and just hold your ribs up and take one and see how that turns out for you.”