Flamethrower rears back ... and lights go out. Catcher not fazed

April 24th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- Catching coach Alex Burg experienced quite the scare in the Giants’ bullpen on Monday night.

Burg, 36, was preparing to receive ’s final warmup pitch when the stadium lights suddenly blacked out in preparation for the All-Star closer’s new dramatic ninth-inning entrance at Oracle Park, forcing Burg to try to catch the ball in the dark.

“I knew they were going to do something, but obviously, I didn’t know when it was going to happen, so that was a little bit of a shock that it was right as he was releasing the ball,” Burg said Tuesday.

Fortunately for Burg, Doval -- who has clocked as high as 104 mph -- threw a four-seam fastball before stepping out into the new spotlights, allowing Burg to catch the pitch and avoid serious harm.

“If it would have been a sinker or a slider, I probably would have died,” Burg said. “No chance I catch those, because they’re so nasty. But the four-seamer stays pretty true, especially in the ‘pen. It gave me a little bit better of a shot to catch it.”

Burg, a 24th-round Draft pick of the Giants in 2009 who is now in his third year on the Major League coaching staff, said he received some occlusion training during his time in the Rangers' organization, which involved trying to hit balls after the lights had been switched off. He believes that background helped him make the catch, though he recognizes there was also an element of luck involved, especially considering he was wearing a facemask but no chest protector.

“It’s funny because I caught it,” Burg said. “If I wouldn’t have caught it, obviously, this interview is probably slightly different. But since I caught it, it’s just funny. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again, but I’m glad I caught it, and it’s obviously scarier when it’s [Doval] because he throws a billion miles an hour.”

Burg said he received probably 40-50 messages from friends inquiring about his well-being after the video of Doval’s entrance went viral following the Giants’ 5-2 win over the Mets on Monday night.

“A bunch of people were sending me the video on Twitter going like, ‘Is this you? Are you OK? Did you die?’” Burg said. “I’ve been messing with all my buddies going like, ‘You can’t teach these hands.’”

Giants senior director of live experience and entertainment Marco Nicola, who oversees the new light show, apologized to Burg on the field prior to Tuesday’s game and jokingly gave him a headlamp and a gift card for his troubles. Burg said he’s still a fan of Doval’s entrance, and the Giants are working with the ballpark operations group to establish new guidelines and make sure they can avoid more near-misses in the future.

“That’s been kind of the coolest part,” Burg said. “[Giants general manager] Pete [Putila] reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do something with this.’ All of our staff on the field has been really cool about like, ‘Hey, we’re so sorry that this happened. We’re going to get better at it.’ It’s the first time they’re doing it. I’m sure they were excited to do it. I’m OK with them jumping the gun. I didn’t get hurt, so it’s fine.”