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Original Issue

To Be Plunked by a Pitch

What's in the mind, when the body's on the line?

DAVID WRIGHT, Mets (17 HBP in four seasons)
"Usually you know pretty close to right out of his hand [if it's coming at you]," says Wright (right), who was last hit by Jamie Moyer on April 12. "The majority of the time you can get out of the way, but sometimes you're like a deer in the headlights—you just freeze. You have to overcome the fear of getting hit. If you get a glancing shot, it usually doesn't hurt. The ones that hurt are the ones that go booomp [he claps his hands] and just fall to the ground. You try to make like it doesn't hurt. [Even if] it's stinging, you don't want to give the pitcher credit and rub it, [and] you don't want to seem soft in front of your teammates. So you make a couple of weird faces, and then you're on your way."

PAUL KONERKO, White Sox (57 HBP in 11 seasons)
"The way it works here is really good because even if you do something completely out of line to the other team, we all know that A.J.—[Pierzynski, the White Sox catcher, finished first in an SI PLAYERS poll, May 29, 2006, that asked whom they'd most like to see get beaned]—is going to be the fall guy."

BRADY CLARK, Brewers (53 HBP in eight seasons)
"Part of it is a willingness to get hit," says the 6'2" leadoff batter (top of page). "My job is to get on base. If it takes getting hit, that's O.K. If they throw inside, you just turn and wear it. I've done my job."

JACK WILSON, Pirates (25 HBP in seven seasons)
"I was in Double A in Arkansas [in 2000], and this guy threw me two nasty sliders. The first was a strike. The second was away, but I swung and missed. So I'm like, Gosh, dang, those are really good sliders." Then Wilson committed the sin of anticipating an off-speed pitch. "I was looking slider on the next pitch," he recalls. "I was out over the plate, and it was a 94-mile-an-hour two-seamer right in the ear. You talk about ringing. I hit the deck, got up, took two or three steps and just wobbled. I saw stars. I saw birds. Anything you see in the cartoons. So I just stopped in my tracks, put my hands on my knees, then fell down into the trainer's hands. My wife [Julie] is up in the stands, and she's bawling. She was scared. They took me in, did all these tests, and it was cool. Just a slight concussion."

DOUG MIENTKIEWICZ, Yankees (37 HBP in 10 seasons)
"You know who smoked me? [Journeyman reliever] Rheal Cormier. Lefty against lefty, and the ball just came in on me, and I had nowhere to go. Got me in the ribs. That was the worst ever, and I've been hit in the head and the back of the neck. I was sore for three weeks. When you get hit hard, you try and shake it off and run to first. But inside you're like a little kid, and your arms and legs are flailing. If I'm playing first and somebody gets hit, I'll say, 'That hurt me and I'm standing over here. It's O.K. if you cry. I'm here for you.' If I'm [at the plate and] slumping, I'm praying to get hit. I'll take a curveball off the face and be happy about it. I'd rather get hit than kill a rally."

JOHNNY DAMON, Yankees (37 HBP in 13 seasons)
On expecting to get hit when teams are trading beanballs: "My worst at bats ever. If you think it's coming, your back foot shakes and you can't swing. You try and take it out of your head, but you can't."

DAVID ECKSTEIN, Cardinals (109 HBP in seven seasons)
"My hitting philosophy is that I stand right on top of the plate and I know they're going to try to hit the outside corner. If they miss, they're going to hit me, [but] if I give up that inside part of the plate, then I won't be effective," says the scrappy shortstop (left), who is no fan of surprises. "On the pitches where I know the ball's going to hit me, I'm usually fine. When I stand there, and I don't think it's going to hit me—even if it's a curveball—those actually hurt."

KEVIN YOUKILIS, Red Sox (20 HBP in four seasons)
"Some catchers actually say, 'Look out!' or scream something so you know to get out of the way. Tek (Boston's Jason Varitek) does that. I think about 99 percent of the time it's unintentional, which is why catchers react and say something."


The Mesa-Vizquel Beanball War

Asked if he ever went to the plate expecting to be hit, Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel replied, "Only if Mesa's on the mound." Jose Mesa (left) and Vizquel played in Cleveland from 1994 to '98, and Mesa carries a grudge against Vizquel for his 2002 book, Omar! in which he criticized Mesa's 1997 World Series performance. "If I face him 10 times, I'll hit him 10 times," Mesa said in 2003. Mesa did plunk Vizquel in their next three meetings, most recently in April '06 when the reliever was with the Rockies. After drawing a four-game ban, Mesa declared the feud over. Even if he has second thoughts, Mesa is in Detroit now, and the teams don't meet in interleague play.