Monday marked the first game of a series between the National League’s top two teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. And in the fourth inning, things got a little tense.
It started innocently enough, when Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna led the bottom of the fourth inning off with a routine flyout to left field. But his backswing caught the helmet of Los Angeles catcher, Will Smith. And while the catcher showed better restraint than his acting namesake, he was not happy about it.
Smith confronted Ozuna about it. Ozuna threw his hands up, as if to apologize and say that he didn’t do it on purpose. Smith seemed to indicate that he didn’t think it was intentional, but it was also not the first time.
Ozuna was led away by Ronald Acuña Jr. and first base coach, Eric Young. Smith was calmed down by home plate umpire, Alan Porter and eventually, manager Dave Roberts. And while nothing beyond tense words came from the argument, both bullpens emptied out.
Marcell Ozuna flies out and hits Dodgers catcher Will Smith on the backswing. Smith confronts him, leading to a tense scene in Atlanta.
Something to circle for the rest of the game and series. pic.twitter.com/k853lnjwZR
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) May 23, 2023
Fortunately, catchers today use either hockey style masks or, like Smith, the old school masks with a helmet. In bygone eras, Smith would have been wearing a mask with a hat.
Getting hit by a backswing is an unfortunate risk of being a catcher. But it’s also easy to understand Smith frustration if it’s happened more than once with Ozuna. At a certain point, the fact that it was unintentional loses its significance, as you just want the hitter to be more careful.
At any rate, Monday’s game was the first of a three-game series in Atlanta. The two teams will play four games in Los Angeles at the end of August and early-September. With these being the two best teams in the National League, these games already felt significant. This will only help.
[Photo Credit: Bally Sports South]