Salazar manages Hillcats' home opener

Returns to dugout five weeks after losing left eye to line drive

By Daren Smith / | April 15, 2011 9:44 PM

Luis Salazar was exactly where he wanted to be on Friday night -- in the home dugout at Lynchburg's Calvin Falwell Field.

Some five weeks after a foul ball off the bat of Brian McCann cost him his left eye, Salazar managed the Lynchburg Hillcats in their home opener against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

"I think it felt normal," Salazar told after the Hillcats' 7-2 loss. "I probably won't know for three or four days, though."

During pregame introductions, Salazar received a standing ovation from the crowd of 5,170, the largest for a Lynchburg home opener in two decades. He fist-bumped his players, then shook hands with Pelicans' players and coaches.

"It was a good feeling, I know, for me, for you guys and for the fans that showed up tonight in a packed place. Especially the other team," he said. "They all cheered for me. I got a lot of compliments from their players and coaches. It was pretty nice."

Salazar was in the dugout at the Braves' Spring Training home in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on March 9 when he was knocked unconscious by McCann's foul ball. He was airlifted to a hospital and has undergone three surgical procedures that forced him to miss the Hillcats' first five games of the Carolina League season.

Rick Albert, who served as hitting coach of the Braves' Class A Advanced affiliate last season, was interim manager in Salazar's absence. He is expected to remain with the team through the weekend.

Salazar held his first meeting with his team Friday afternoon.

"Like he told us in the meeting today, don't treat him any different. Accept him as the manager," said right fielder Adam Milligan, who homered in the third inning. "I believe it's going to be an easy transition with the type of guy he is."

On Friday night, Salazar wore a patch and eyeglasses and managed from the dugout. He said he hopes to return to the third-base coaching box early next week.

"He's so excited to be here," Salazar's wife, Graciela, told "He's in a place where he wants to be, where he loves to be."

Daren Smith is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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