BURNT HILLS — The Burnt Hills youth baseball coach whose left ring finger was partially severed in a freak accident at the conclusion of a tournament game Monday was back home Tuesday, the future of his finger still uncertain.
But head coach Fred Veronezi was more concerned about how what happened obscured a well-played game by the kids.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” Veronezi said by phone. “I hate to take any attention which should be on the kids. That’s why we do all this, for the kids. Our kids played terrific. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Veronezi said the accident happened as his wedding ring got caught on a chain link fence in the Burnt Hills dugout at the conclusion of Niskayuna’s win over Burnt Hills in Monday’s semifinals of the Cal Ripken Eastern New York State Tournament at Blatnick Park in Niskayuna. The players were ages 9 and 10.
Veronezi said the future of his finger won’t be determined until a doctor’s visit and possible surgery today.
At least part of how that injury happened appeared to have been caught on video shot by The Daily Gazette from across the infield. The video, which is available at DailyGazette.com, was shot from far enough away to miss the details of the injury, but it shows Veronezi’s instinctual reaction and some of the immediate aftermath.
It starts as the Niskayuna runner is breaking for home and shows Veronezi with his left hand above his head, apparently on the chain link fence of the dugout.
He can be seen pulling his hand down from the fence and immediately pulls his arm to his chest and starts to bend over. He pulled his hand off the fence as the runner was halfway home and the ball was still in left field.
About eight seconds after Veronezi pulled his left hand from the fence, a man in the dugout believed to be Burnt Hills scorekeeper Jay Zoller rushes over to Veronezi. The video ends as Veronezi appears to be kneeling outside the dugout at the right side of the frame, clutching his hand in a towel, as the players start their customary good sportsmanship line of high-fives.
Soon after the video ends, other coaches realize Veronezi is injured and order all players away from the infield. Paramedics were called and parents with medical backgrounds stepped up.
Veronezi described his intentions as trying to see where the ball was going. The dugout was surrounded on three sides by mesh.
“It was an exciting play going on,” said Veronezi, who had not seen The Daily Gazette video.
On Tuesday, Veronezi said he was fine and has had a lot of support.
“They’re all concerned and making sure everything’s OK,” he said.
He said the response of all the medical professionals, including Burnt Hills mothers Kit Townsend, an athletic trainer, and Sue Schnitzler, an emergency room nurse at Albany Medical Center, were “terrific.” He recalled a couple others helped, as well, including a doctor who came over from the adjoining game.
“They did a great job, and the coaches stood up and took care of the kids,” said Veronezi, whose son Mason is on the Burnt Hills team.
Fellow Burnt Hills coach Andrew Haluska said Veronezi is “incredibly knowledgeable” about baseball and passionate about what he does. “He cares about the league. He cares about the kids,” Haluska said. “He’s a good man. He’s a good man at heart.”