McCann reassured by two-hour visit with Salazar

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brian McCann spent two hours Wednesday night visiting with Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar, who reassured him that his spirits were high despite losing his left eye after being struck by a McCann foul ball last week.

The Braves said Wednesday that Salazar had undergone surgery to remove his left eye. He was released from Orlando Regional Medical Center that afternoon, met with McCann at his hotel Wednesday night, and was on his way home to Boca Raton, Fla., on Thursday evening.

“Sitting down with him was awesome,” McCann said Thursday afternoon. “His attitude is off the charts. He’s looking at it as a positive, with what could have happened. He’s alive. That’s the most important thing.”

McCann first saw Salazar in the hospital just hours after Salazar was hit in the face, knocked unconscious and flown to the hospital, leaving McCann and other Braves players and staff to fear the worst -- death or possible brain damage.

McCann had been told just before he left by a state trooper that Salazar had regained consciousness and his breathing had returned to normal, but when McCann saw him, Salazar wasn’t able to talk. So McCann was eager for the chance Wednesday night.

Salazar, who has had three surgeries on his face and eye, reassured McCann that he knew it was an accident.

“He told me the whole time, he’s like ‘It’s just a freak accident, just one of those things,’” McCann said. “He wanted to let me know that he’s fine, and he’s going to get past this.”

ESPN happened to televise Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox, during which the team announced Salazar had lost his eye. For long stretches, producers kept the cameras focused on McCann in the dugout. Viewers and fans have been concerned about how McCann might respond to playing a part in such a gruesome and potentially devastating injury.

But between Salazar’s recovery and his reaction, McCann said he’s in a better place, too, and his focus is where it needs to be when he’s playing the game.

“When I’m at the plate, I’m focused on the pitcher, trying to do my job,” said McCann.

He also knows he and Salazar will have a special bond going forward.

“He’s going to be in my thoughts and prayers,” McCann said. “He’s a great guy.”

Salazar, 54, who played 13 years in the major leagues, mostly with the Padres, White Sox and Cubs, is in his first year in the Braves' organization. He was invited to camp early to familiarize himself with how the Braves run their major league camp.

Doctors have told the Braves that Salazar could return to work in four to six weeks.

Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, like Salazar a native of Venezuela, said Salazar has known since Saturday he would probably lose his left eye. His eye was surgically removed Tuesday and replaced with a prosthetic.

“I said, ‘Hey man, hang in there,’” Perez said. “He said, ‘Hey, just happy to be alive.’”