I’m no video specialist — I just took screen shots of the ESPN clip. They’re not as clear as they should be, and the center of every picture is obscured by the video play control. Someone else can do this better. But there’s important information to be learned here.
Above is our establishing shot of the incident. The Cubs’ Wellington Castillo has just hit a ball to left field for what would prove to be a double. Marlins pitcher Brett Sinkbeil and first baseman Gaby Sanchez watch the flight of the ball. The Cubs’ Brad Snyder takes off for second base. Tyler Colvin pauses at third base, to make certain that the Castillo drive will not be caught. The broken shard of Castillo’s bat has not yet entered our frame of view.
As we move through the pictures, watch Marlins pitcher Brett Sinkbeil. His right foot will take a step forward, as he moves towards home plate (presumably to back up the catcher in case of a throw home). The nine remaining pictures represent about 1/3 of a second by my best guess — enough time for Sinkbeil to take that one step.
The bat hard enters our frame of view in the shot above. It is the blur just below the “FS Marlins” credit at the upper right hand corer of the picture, just above the partial star. Note that Colvin is still focused on the batted ball in left field – he has not committed to run to home plate, and he does not see the bat shard flying towards him.
In the shot above, the bat shard is now clearly visible over the head of first baseman Sanchez. Colvin has begun moving towards home, but he is still following the flight of the ball. Snyder is now hidden behind Colvin, which might give the impression that more time has passed between our pictures 2 and 3. This is deceptive. Remember that Snyder and Colvin are moving in different directions. A better indicator of the passage of time is the progress of Sinkbeil’s right foot stepping forward towards home plate.
In the shot above, the bat shard now appears to be directly over Sinkbeil’s head. Of course we know that’s not true — the bat is actually flying down the third base line, straight at Colvin. Note that Colvin is still following the ball in left field.
In the shot above, we see the shard about to strike Colvin. Note that Colvin is turning his body towards home plate, so his left shoulder is turning towards the flying bat. This probably increased the impact of the bat against the left side of his chest. It’s impossible to know whether Colvin sees the bat coming at this point, but of course he has no time to react.
Also notice the relatively flat plane of the bat. From our vantage point it appears to be spinning slightly clockwise, but for the most part it is flying towards Colvin like a spear. Knowing this, I encourage you to view the ESPN clip again, in real time. For me at least, the clip becomes a good deal more frightening, knowing the true trajectory of the bat.
The bat shard strikes Colvin in the shot above. The back end of the shard now appears to twist slightly downwards, as the bat shard continues its apparent clockwise spin. Colvin has not had time to react to being hit by the shard, but he appears (to me at least; this may be a subjective reaction on my part) to have been rocked back slightly by the impact — he does not appear to be leaning forwards as much in this shot as in the prior shot. Also, the name and number on the back of his jersey appear blurrier in this shot. As I said, this is not a scientific reaction. I know he’s been hit at this point. Maybe I’m just imagining that the picture displays the force of the impact.
The front end of the bat continues to spin downwards in the shot above. Does this create an upwards tearing motion where the bat has punctured the left side of Colvin’s chest? Or is this just the natural motion of the bat about to fall to earth? Notice that Colvin has still not had time to react to the impact.
In the shot above, the bat begins to fall to earth. Colvin’s right hand begins to move up and towards the spot where he was hit by the bat.
The bat falls to the ground in the shot above. Colvin’s reaction to being hit is now obvious.
The bat falls from view in our final shot above. Snyder has almost run out of the picture, though the camera has been following Colvin. In the time it took for the bat to fly into our picture, strike Colvin and fall to the ground, Sinkbeil has had time to complete a single step forward, and Sanchez has barely moved.
With all this in mind, again I ask that you watch the ESPN video in real time. Then come to your own conclusions about the danger posed to players and fans by flying pieces of broken bats.