Exactly How It Feels to Get Hit By a Pitch: ‘MLB Fans Have No Idea’

MLB pitchers are a wonder of the modern sports world. They can sneak pitches into precise locations while throwing with mind-bending velocity. Every so often, a pitch gets away from them and hits a batter. Or, if the batter did something to offend a pitcher or team, a loose ball can be an intentional act. Either way, getting hit by an MLB pitcher is painful.

How fast do MLB pitchers throw? 

Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals gets hit by a pitch
Kolten Wong of the Cardinals gets hit by a pitch | Mark Brown/Getty Images

MLB.com analyzed data from every team’s pitching rotation in the 2018 season. They found that the average starting pitcher threw a fastball at 92.3 miles per hour, while relievers threw an average of 93.4. The Tampa Bay Rays had the fastest pitches at 25.8 miles per hour. It proves that MLB pitchers can throw incredibly hard. 

This means that getting hit by one of their pitches will hurt bad depending on the pitch’s speed and where the person in question got hit. While fans have seen countless beanballs throughout MLB history, one stands out as the worst among them. It demonstrates how much damage a pitcher can do. 

The worst hit by pitch in MLB history

Being hit by a pitch in MLB is certainly no laughing matter. It’s led to players getting injured, ejections, into brawls, and even death in one case. In a 1920 game between the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, pitcher Carl Mays hit Indians’ hitter Ray Chapman on the head with a pitch.

Chapman stood up after the pitch but later entered the hospital with a fractured skull. Sadly, he later passed away. The pitch was unintentional. However, it didn’t help that Chapman was one of the MLB’s most popular players and Mays one of its most unpopular.

Later, Mays expressed sincere remorse for the incident: “It is the most regrettable incident of my baseball career … I would give anything if I could undo what has happened. Chapman was a game, splendid fellow.”

This shows the worst-case scenario for a player facing a rogue pitch. If an athlete in 1920 could die from a hit to the wrong area of the body, it could just as easily happen today. Today’s pitchers throw faster and are generally stronger than they were back then. 

How it feels to get hit by a pitch

ESPN released a piece on the experience of getting hit by a pitch. What stood out is the fear and uncertainty players face at the plate. Former player Kevin Seitzer, who got hit in the face by one, said, It was like my face was crushed by a bowling ball, a bowling ball going 95 miles per hour.”

Former Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Torii Hunter described his reaction to the pain of a beaning: “I was gasping for air. It hurt so much … And what did I do after I got hit? I just picked the ball up and threw it back at [the pitcher]. At that point, it just hurt so much, I was seeing red.”

Until they’ve stood in that box, spectators won’t truly understand how scary it is. Former Rays infielder Will Rhymes may say it best: “The fans have no idea … They don’t realize that they wouldn’t even stand in there and track a pitch against a major league pitcher. And they are smart not to stand in there. At least we know how you’re supposed to get out of the way.”

The average fan may be envious about many parts of being a pro athlete. Being hit by an MLB fastball surely isn’t one of them.

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