There have been been nasty, ugly beanball incidents over the years in baseball, but perhaps nothing was as shocking or deplorable as what happened 10 years ago this month, when Wichita State ace and MLB prospect Ben Christensen - thinking that Evansville lead-off hitter was Anthony Molina was “timing” his warm-up pitches from the on-deck circle, drilled an unaware Moilina with a 92 mph fastball, almost killing him.
In one instant Molina - a scrappy player with possible pro prospects of his own - saw his baseball career end as the left side of his face was essentially caved in. The BLOOMNGTON PANTAGRAPH caught up with Molina recently, and learned that while he’s tried to move on, he’s still dealing with wounds from that dreadful moment - both physical and emotional.
The impact of the pitch destroyed Molina’s left eye, leaving him with a blind spot, poor peripheral vision and almost no depth perception - in addition to breaking three bones in his face and opening up a cut that required 23 stitches. He’s had three surgeries to repair damage to his eye since the - for lack of a better term - assault, and expects to have more periodically throughout his life.
Molina’s pro prospects ended that day, but he’s managed to stay involved in the sport, giving lessons to local youth players while working as a senior credit manager at a financial services firm. Still, he can’t quite get away from what might have been had Christensen not committed one of the most awful acts in basebal history:
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could play baseball for a living,” he said. “Even if you’re just making the major league minimum, that’s a lot of money and you’re playing a game for a living. The guys who are blessed enough to be able to do that appreciate it and know how lucky they are.”
As for Christensen, it’s probably not surprising that he turned down a request for an interview about the anniversary of the incident. His baseball dreams - like Molina’s - are also dead, but for different reasons: he was a first-round draft pick by the Cubs in the 1999 MLB Draft, but arm troubles kept him from ever getting past Class AA level. Either that, or karma actually does work every once in a while.
Molina settled a lawsuit against Christensen for an undisclosed sum in 2002, which might have helped give him some closure; he now says that he doesn’t “ever think about him at all,” which sounds great but I’m guessing is a bit of a white lie.