Beaning Ends Aude’s First Pro Season

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Just when he had begun to hit, Rich Aude suddenly was hit.

Aude, a recent graduate of Chatsworth High who was playing in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system, was hit in the face by a pitched ball Wednesday in a rookie-league game against the New York Mets’ Sarasota club in Bradenton, Fla.

After struggling to a .152 average in his first 13 games, Aude had compiled an eight-game hitting streak and had steadily raised his average before being hit. He will be sidelined a minimum of four weeks--perhaps six weeks or longer--because of a broken lower jaw.

“My whole head was buzzing,” Aude said. “It feels like I’ve got the whole baseball stuck in my cheek. I didn’t really know where I was. I was spitting out blood.”


Aude is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday at Bradenton’s Manatee Memorial Hospital. He will either have his jaw wired shut and be sidelined for at least six weeks, or have a plate inserted and be able to return to action in four weeks.

Whatever happens, Aude’s rookie-league season is over, and he will return home to Chatsworth next week. The Gulf Coast Rookie League schedule ends Aug. 28, and Aude, a third baseman who signed for $80,000 as a second-round pick in the June amateur draft, will attempt to be ready for the beginning of instructional league play in mid-September.

This is not the first time Aude has been forced to the sideline. He missed several games after suffering a sprained left ankle three weeks ago.

“He was doing very well,” Bradenton Pirates Manager Woody Huyke said. “We were very happy with his progress. He showed he’s going to be a good ballplayer.”

However, in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday, an errant fastball that Aude estimated was traveling at 85 m. p. h., temporarily sidetracked his career.

“It was coming right at me,” Aude said of the ball that struck him on the left side of his face. “I just froze. You’re supposed to turn and take it in the back or the helmet.”


The beanball culminated a series of events that began a few innings earlier when Aude tagged a Mets runner hard at third base. The Pirate pitcher subsequently hit the same Mets runner, and Aude was beaned an inning later.

But Huyke discounted an intentional beaning on the part of either pitcher.

“Clubs invest a lot of money in these guys,” he said. “To think about hitting a guy intentionally is unprofessional.”