Remember the poignant story of Luis Salazar, the Atlanta Braves minor-league coach who lost an eye during spring training after being struck by a foul ball in the dugout? As promised, he returned to his post as manager of the Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League) last night before an appreciative crowd at Calvin Falwell Field.
A crowd of 5,170 — the largest Opening Day crowd for the Hillcats in some two decades — gave Salazar a standing ovation for his first appearance in uniform since the March 9, when a foul ball off the bat of Brian McCann shattered his left-eye socket, forcing doctors to later remove the damaged eye. (Adding insult to injury, he broke his right forearm after collapsing from the impact.)
“It’s my passion, baseball, and being down here, tonight is going to be a very emotional night, a home opener,” he told AP before the game. “To me, it’s another challenge. They’re not going to take baseball away from me.”
Salazar was wearing a patch and darkened glasses over the eye area; once it heals, he hopes to have an artificial eye placed there.
Rick Albert managed the Hillcats as they opened the season on the road.
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