India recounts harrowing airlift after Field of Dreams HBP

August 13th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Over 209 games over his first two seasons in the Major Leagues, Reds second baseman Jonathan India has been hit by a pitch 32 times. India usually shakes off the soreness when it happens, but that was not possible on Thursday vs. the Cubs during the Field of Dreams Game in Iowa after he was hit on the leg by a pitch.

It almost turned into a harrowing, and dangerous situation for the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year. 

"It was weird how it all went down," India said before Saturday's game.

In the first inning, Cubs starter Drew Smyly hit India with a pitch on his left shin. It looked and sounded painful, but India limped to first base and remained in the game. 

Things got progressively worse. India batted in the second inning and struck out. He was out of the game before the top of the fourth. 

"I was like, I’m going back out, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," India said. "I went up to hit and couldn’t focus. So much pain, I couldn’t land on my front foot. I struck out and was like, 'This isn’t going well.' I remember swinging at a pitch and I almost fell. I was making a fool out of myself. It was the right decision because I was in so much pain. If I kept walking on it, they said if I played the rest of the game, I could have done a lot of damage."

Once he got his sock off, India saw a large lump on his shin that he estimated was the size of a baseball and very painful.

India was examined by the Cubs team physician and diagnosed with a bone bruise. He watched the rest of the game from the Reds dugout not realizing how badly his shin was swelling.

Paramedics and concerned teammates crowded around India's locker after another round of tests had him in considerable pain. The doctor was concerned that India had compartment syndrome, a medical emergency where blood flow to the muscles and nerves is limited. It's an issue that normally requires immediate treatment.

"He said, 'You could lose your calf muscle if you don't go to the hospital,'" India said.

Doctors ruled out India flying back to Cincinnati with the club as a precaution. He was instead airlifted to a hospital in Iowa City.

"In a helicopter, first time ever. It was kind of cool," India said. "We flew over the Field of Dreams. It was sick. It was still lit up. They actually were making jokes, 'You’re the best person we’ve ever had on this helicopter.' It was cool. It was a 45-minute little helicopter ride."

Head trainer Sean McQueeney and India's girlfriend, Daniella, drove 90 minutes to Iowa City to meet the helicopter. At the hospital for four hours, India was examined every 20 minutes to make sure there was still a pulse in his leg.

"What was uncomfortable about it for me was we had to leave him. Thankfully Sean McQueeney stepped up and just did a great job with Jonathan," Reds manager David Bell said. "I knew he was in good hands, which made it easier, but it was hard I think for our whole team to leave a player. It wasn’t the most convenient of spots, but it was still great care."

Finally, compartment syndrome was ruled out and India was released. On Friday, he and McQueeney made a seven-hour-plus drive back to Cincinnati.

A large bandage remained over India's shin and he was not able to play on Saturday.

"It's crazy that just for a bruise I had to go through that," India said. "It was more serious than I thought. I'm glad everyone was there to help me, the trainers, the Cubs' doctor. I'm glad that they were looking out for me because, if it was for me, I'd just have gone on the plane and who knows what would've happened?"