Salazar returns to Braves' dugout

Salazar returns to Braves' dugout

Salazar returns to Braves' dugout
PHILADELPHIA -- On Tuesday, six months after nearly losing his life, Luis Salazar returned to the Major League scene with the same upbeat personality that has served as an inspiration to many members of the Braves organization this year.

Instead of focusing on what he had overcome after losing his left eye during Spring Training, Salazar stood in the visitor's clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park and sounded like a proud father while describing what he had seen from his players while spending this summer as manager of Class A Advanced Lynchburg.

"He's positive and upbeat and excited about the kids and what he's doing," general manager Frank Wren said. "It's not about him. The whole ride out here on the bus, he couldn't stop talking about the kids on his team."

As his Lynchburg club was traveling from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Kinston and attempting to avoid the rains of Hurricane Irene during August's final weekend, Salazar received word that the Braves wanted him to spend this week serving as an extra coach on manager Fredi Gonzalez's staff.

"It's one of those things that caught me by surprise," Salazar said. "I'm very glad the Atlanta Braves organization did this -- not because of what happened in Spring Training, but because of the job we did in the Minor Leagues and with player development. We made a lot of progress with those kids."

A former Major League infielder, Salazar joined the organization this past winter and was preparing to serve as Lynchburg's manager when, standing on the dugout rail during a game at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on March 9, he was struck in the left eye by a line-drive foul ball off Brian McCann's bat. The impact knocked him unconscious before he fell back and smacked his face against the dugout floor.

Salazar remained unconscious for nearly 15 minutes and was transported to an Orlando-area hospital via helicopter. Initially, many members of the organization feared he would die.

There was an obvious sense of relief when Salazar regained consciousness and learned that he had not sustained any brain damage. After undergoing surgery to remove the eye, he returned to the clubhouse multiple times before the end of Spring Training and served as Lynchburg's manager for the club's home opener in April.

Wearing clear sunglasses to protect his glass eye, Salazar spent the summer throwing batting practice, hitting grounders and serving as a third-base coach. And as this week progresses, he is ready to do whatever Gonzalez requests.

"I'll do everything I did in Lynchburg," Salazar said. "It's nothing new to me. It's like nothing happened."