Texas Rangers

'It was ugly': Rangers minor league coach struck in face by line drive

Rangers’ Jeff Banister on Howard Johnson: “It caught him pretty flush”

Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister was an eyewitness to the line drive that struck Triple A hitting coach Howard Johnson in the face Saturday (video by Jeff Wilson).
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Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister was an eyewitness to the line drive that struck Triple A hitting coach Howard Johnson in the face Saturday (video by Jeff Wilson).

Howard Johnson, the former MLB third baseman now serving as hitting coach for the Texas Rangers' Triple-A team, was struck in the face Saturday by a foul line drive into the dugout and taken to an area hospital.

Cleveland Indians shortstop Erik Gonzalez sent a fourth-inning pitch from Rangers right-hander Keone Kela toward the Rangers' dugout, where Johnson was standing on a bench and leaning over the railing.

He was struck high on his left cheekbone, below his eye. Rangers medical personnel quickly placed a towel on his face, which was bleeding, and laid him on the bench. After a delay of some 10 minutes, he was driven off the field on a stretcher while holding the towel to his face.

Manager Jeff Banister, who was seated outside the dugout but behind a protective screen, said he saw the ball as it hit Johnson.

"I'd actually turned and was looking down that way," Banister said. "All in all, the reports right now are generally positive. Obviously, our prayers are with him. "

"It got there really quick," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "It was ugly. He was awake and he responded to all of the medial questions. So that's a good sign."

Left-hander Martin Perez said that Johnson might have been looking toward first base when the ball was struck and turned his face into the ball after hearing warnings to look out.

Johnson, 57, was the manager of High A Down East last season and helped lead the Wood Ducks to a share of the Carolina League title. But the former big-league hitting coach wanted to return to teaching hitters and was assigned to Round Rock for the season.

The Express opens its season April 5.

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