I remember exactly where I was on July 8, 2010. I was at Park Tavern watching the Twins play Toronto when this happened:
"Might have had the wind knocked out of him," Bert Blyleven said, hopefully. "Justin's walking off on his own, which is always a good sign."
Except when it isn't.
That was the night when Morneau's career with the Twins changed for good. He was sidelined by a concussion for the rest of the season and never regained the MVP form that has marked the prime of his career, which came to a crushing halt that night against the Blue Jays. That half-season (81 games) ended with 18 home runs, a .345 batting average and an OPS of 1.055.
Morneau struggled, had a couple of slightly better-than-average seasons with the Twins (based on OPS+ data, anyway) and was traded to Pittsburgh in 2013. From there, he went to Colorado, where he won the National League batting title last season.
Then, earlier this month, he suffered another concussion diving for a ball against the Los Angeles Angels. Again, it wasn't immediately obvious what had happened.
Morneau was put on the seven-day disabled list because of the concussion-like symptoms[ last weekend and it doesn't sound like he's coming off this weekend.
“It’s probably not just (seven days),” manager Walt Weiss told the Denver Post on Thursday. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be a whole lot longer than that, but he’s not going to be in the lineup in two days.”
Again, based on what we know about brain injuries that we didn't know a few years back, don't be surprised if it's much more than two days. Twins fans, of course, not only watched this play out with Morneau, but with Joe Mauer and (to a lesser extent) former center fielder Denard Span.
With all of those players, there were the silly insinuations about their toughness and desire to play. Let's hope those voices are in the tiny minority as Morneau tries again to heal.
Mike Bates wrote on the MLB Daily Dish blog: "Now, his only focus has to be on getting better. Not for the Rockies and not for the fans, but for himself and for his family. We may never see Justin Morneau play baseball again, and that would be OK. The true dangers of brain injury have become devastatingly clear over the last two years, and I would expect the Rockies at this point to work with Morneau to make sure that he is safe and symptom free in his personal life before there is any talk of rejoining the team."
A good resource for information about brain injuries is The Concussion Blog, which is run by an athletic trainer from Illinois who suffered several concussions while he was playing sports. Dustin Fink writes about everything from concussions among professional athletes to the impact of brain injuries on youth sports.
You can find it here.