In a spring-break baseball tournament in Miami last year, Jupiter junior Mitchell Hartigan stepped to the plate. The left-handed hitter was at a disadvantage, facing a hard-throwing left-hander.
The pitcher lost control of a fastball and it hit Hartigan in the face, fracturing his orbital bone.
“It was scary, but like, I got hit — it was only like a moment of pain, but it really swelled up,” Hartigan said. “Looking at myself in the mirror the next few days was a little weird.”
Hartigan needed surgery to repair the broken bone, and he missed the remainder of the season, including the Warriors’ trip to Fort Myers and loss to eventual state champion Orlando-Timber Creek in the state semifinals.
“I wasn’t scared for my life or anything,” Hartigan said, “but I was kind of more angry that I wouldn’t be able to make the run with my team.”
A year later, Hartigan is a key player for Jupiter as the Warriors have clinched their second straight berth in the Class 9A state semifinals. Jupiter plays Miami Columbus in Fort Myers on Friday at 7 p.m.
“I always hoped we could get back here to this point,” Hartigan said. “But honestly, there was always the doubts in my mind that I would be able to help my team get back here again, and it’s just incredible to actually get to play against Douglas again, against Vista, get all those games in and then actually get to start back at (states) again.”
Hartigan now wears a batting helmet with a protective faceguard. It’s similar to the one New York Yankees star Giancarlo Stanton has been wearing to protect himself since his 2014 season with the Miami Marlins ended early after he was hit by a pitch to the face that caused several fractures.
“It feels a little different in the beginning, but it’s not a big change,” Hartigan said. “A lot of people think it will impair your vision or anything. You see a lot of the big guys using it now. It obviously doesn’t impair their ability to play or they wouldn’t be using it.”
Jupiter coach Andy Mook said Hartigan hasn’t shown any hesitation since he got back on the field, which is a little surprising, given his injury.
“He bounced right back,” Mook said. “Most guys get hit in the face, it takes a little while, let alone a high school kid. But he’s still a bulldog and just went right back at it.”
Whatever trepidation the senior had hasn’t shown in his statistics. The outfielder/pitcher, who signed to play for Florida Atlantic, has a .302 batting average and nine extra-base hits. He’s also been one of the Warriors’ top pitchers, going 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA and averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
“Stepping back in the box wasn’t too hard against righties because I got hit against a lefty and I’m a lefty — (the opposing pitcher was) a hard-throwing lefty, throwing like 90 (mph),” Hartigan said. “The first time I faced another one of the 90 lefties, that was a little challenging.
“I kind of had to flinch a few times to get back in there, but I pretty much got back and started hitting over the summer .. and honestly, all the fear faded away.”