As a child, every kid likes to think of their parents to be superheroes as they portray that strength and power that ends up saving the day. This is exactly how little Landon Cunningham felt about his dad after his dad protected him from a flying baseball bat when he went to watch his first game.
Landon already knew his dad was a hero. Shaun Cunningham, Landon’s dad, makes his living as a paramedic, attending to accidents and emergencies. However, what happened at the game definitely took things to another level.
It was just before Landon’s ninth birthday, and his father wanted to treat him to a special experience. They got tickets for a spring training game in Orlando, Florida, between the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates. Landon was thrilled to be there and to see the Major League players up and close.
Landon’s mom and sister were having their own special girls’ day, spending time together and doing some shopping. Naturally, Landon wanted to share the sights of the game with his mom. He asked his dad for his phone, took some pictures, and was going to send them along with a message to his mom.
— Christopher Horner (@Hornerfoto1) March 6, 2016
That’s when Pittsburgh outfielder Danny Ortiz came up to bat. As he swung, he lost control of the bat, sending it flying into the stands. Just to put this into perspective, Blast Motion has studied data from MLB games and estimated that bat speed can range from 65 to 85 miles per hour. So Ortiz’s bat flew into the stands as fast as a car driving along the highway.
Sports photographer Christopher Horner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review happened to be in great position to capture the arc of the bat as it sailed through the crowd. The fans instinctively reached their arms and hands out to protect themselves from the projectile. However, little Landon had been sending his mom a message and had no idea what was coming.
Thankfully for him, his dad was all over it. As Shaun Cunningham told Inside Edition, “it initially looked like it was going over our head and at the last second I realized it was headed right toward him.” Dad made a perfect reach, shooting his arm straight out in front of his son’s face.
Landon’s mom, Ashley Cunningham, saw the pictures taken by Christopher Horner and was terrified. As she told the Tribune-Review, “Thank God he has those reflexes. That bat was flying dead-center toward Landon’s head.” As for Landon, he had no doubts about where to give credit. “I think he’s amazing and he’s a superhero,” Landon said.
Meanwhile, Danny Ortiz was obviously shocked to see what his errant bat had almost done. He told the Tribune-Review, “I went home and my wife said to me, ‘You almost killed that kid!’” Ortiz was in awe of Shaun Cunningham’s reflexes. “That guy took a shot for the kid. He protected that kid.”
But for this dad, it was just something that any father would do to keep his child safe. “I was just protecting my son,” he told the Tribune-Review. “There wasn’t a lot of time to think about it. I just reacted.”
One year ago today: Shaun Cunningham saves his son Landon after a baseball bat flew into the stands, out of the hands of…
It’s hard to have an experience like that and not be a little gun shy. As Landon asked his dad, “does that always happen at baseball games?” Thankfully, no one was seriously injured and Landon’s love for baseball and his dad only grew up with this incredible experience.