HOUSTON — Don Baylor has no desire to watch a replay of the freak mishap in which he broke his right thigh bone while catching the ceremonial first pitch before the season opener in Angel Stadium on March 31.
But the Angels hitting coach has replayed the gruesome scene in his mind dozens of times, from lunging for Vladimir Guerrero’s low-and-away pitch, to twisting his right ankle and knee, and to having his leg buckle, bend and collapse underneath him as athletic trainers helped him to his feet.
“It felt like I got drilled by a Nolan Ryan fastball,” Baylor, 64, said by phone from his home in La Quinta, Calif. “You try to stand up, and the leg won’t let you stand. It was pretty much a shock. You can’t feel your leg, and it’s moving all over the place. I thought it was dislocated. I never thought it was broken.”
Baylor underwent surgery at UCI Medical Center on Tuesday and was released from the hospital Friday. The normal recovery time for a broken femur is four to six months, but Baylor, known for his toughness as both a player and coach, said he would like to return to the dugout by the end of May.
“I have a doctor’s appointment Tuesday, and I’ll get some direction,” said Baylor, who is getting around the house with a walker. “His timeline and my timeline are two different things.
“He said six weeks. I say four weeks. I was bargaining for four weeks when I went in for surgery. Once he tells me I can put weight on it, I hope to get back in the dugout.”
Baylor, who played 19 years in the big leagues, winning the 1979 American League most valuable player award with the Angels, and spent 22 years as a manager or coach, was diagnosed in 2003 with multiple myeloma, a cancer that weakens the bones.
Asked if the condition may have contributed to his fractured femur, Baylor, who was hired by the Angels last October, said, “I don’t believe so … but I will discuss that with my doctors Friday.”
Baylor said he has been “feeling good” with the exception of some occasional discomfort, “but the medication usually takes care of that.” He hasn’t missed a pitch of the Angels’ last six games and has been sending text messages to the team’s coaches and Manager Mike Scioscia with suggestions.
Baylor was also appreciative of the support and well-wishes he has received from fans, players, managers, coaches and executives throughout baseball, including Commissioner Bud Selig, Ryan, now a Houston Astros special advisor; and former teammates Bobby Grich and Joe Rudi.
“I knew I had friends in baseball — I didn’t know I had that many,” Baylor said. “I haven’t been back with the Angels in so long, but I feel like I’m part of the Angels family. It’s a special organization. It’s tremendous how everyone has reached out.”
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