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Durham pitcher hits bird with pitch
By Chuck King

Those who remember Randy Johnson striking a bird with a spring training pitch in 2001 – one of the most amazing baseball plays – recall it being a one-in-a-million shot. Apparently, another 999,999 pitches have passed.

Sunday night in the 11th inning of Durham’s Triple-A International League game at Buffalo, Bulls reliever Jason Childress’ 3-2 pitch struck a sea gull on the way to the plate.

Thinking the pitch was going to be a strike, Bisons batter Ramon Vazquez swung. He missed the ball, which ultimately hit the home plate umpire in the foot and rolled away.

“I just saw the ball,” Vazquez said. “I knew it hit something. I didn’t know what it hit. I went to swing and the ball almost hit me.”

Everyone on the field momentarily froze in stunned silence. Finally, Vazquez ran toward first hoping to salvage the at-bat, but Durham catcher Kevin Cash tracked down the ball and threw him out at first for the final out of the inning.

Like most amazing baseball plays, this one wasn’t without controversy. Durham left the field, but was summoned back after an umpires’ conference ruled no pitch.

Bisons catcher Einar Diaz scooped up the bird, which lay flapping in front of home plate, and brought it to staff members for first aid. Vazquez, who said he was originally frustrated at striking on such a bizarre play, returned to the box and grounded out.

Unlike the Randy Johnson incident, though, this bird actual recovered and flew away. It begs the question: Does this belong one of the most amazing baseball plays, or one of the most amazing animal recoveries.

Vazquez says there was talk around the dugout that the beaning was bound to happen. Dunn Tire Park is just a few blocks from the Niagara River and is constantly being swarmed by gulls.

The Bisons, who are constantly looking for ways to keep the gulls at bay, may have finally found a solution. The gulls left the area after their comrade got hit.

“It was like they knew,” Bisons entertainment coordinator Matt Lasota said. “It was like they said, oh man, look what they did to him!”

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