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Sight for SORE EYES
Leigh Montville
November 27, 2000
After his face was crushed by a batted ball in last season's most gruesome play, Boston's Bryce Florie is returning to normal—and not ruling out a comeback
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November 27, 2000

Sight For Sore Eyes

After his face was crushed by a batted ball in last season's most gruesome play, Boston's Bryce Florie is returning to normal—and not ruling out a comeback

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Everyone told him not to look at himself—not now—but at some point he found he was near a mirror. He couldn't resist. The advice had been right. The right side of his face was swollen to twice its normal size. He thought he looked like the Elephant Man. For the first time, he saw what had shocked everyone. He began to cry. Before that pitch to Thompson, he thought, he had looked as normal as anyone else.

Robert stayed with him for all the procedures, up all night after being up all the previous night driving from South Carolina. Brannon was with him much of the time. Morris and his wife were in the waiting room at the hospital, answering all the calls on the cell phones, giving out information. Bryan had watched the game on television. Bryce's mother also had watched. She, Bryan and Bryan's wife, Laura, would be coming to Boston.

There wasn't much talk about whether Florie would pitch again. The immediate concern was whether he would see with his right eye again. The consensus was that he was a lucky man. "Look at it this way," one doctor said. "Your biggest victory was when you got up off that ground."

Nearly two weeks later, after a lot of the swelling had subsided, a second operation was performed, this time to repair the broken bones. The ball had fractured his nose, his cheekbone and the orbital bones to the side of and below the eye. A titanium plate was screwed to his cheekbone to provide support. No more work would be done on the eye. Florie's body was in charge of the eye now. "You never know how much vision will return," he was told. "There is blood behind the retina, and sometimes it leaves and vision is restored. Sometimes it stays. Sometimes part of it stays."

He went back to the apartment in Cambridge that he had rented for the season. For the first few days after he returned his eyes, dilated by drops, made him sensitive to light. He teared easily. He tripped over things. He spent hours reading mail, hundreds of letters from people horrified by the pictures they had seen on television. The letter writers told of their own struggles and said that they were praying for him. A lot of kids wrote letters. Teachers had entire classes write letters. One kid sent a picture of his own black eye. Another sent a letter that made Florie laugh.

"Everyone in our class is rooting for you to come back," the letter said. "Except the Yankee fans."

Will he pitch again? He still doesn't know. Will he try to pitch? He thinks so. His goal is to be ready for spring training.

Ray says that if Florie's vision improves in the damaged eye to 20/50, corrected, he could play. He conceivably could play with only one good eye. There would be limitations, but he could play. Number 1: He would have to stay in the American League, where he would not have to bat. Hitting is a two-eyed skill. Number 2: He would have extra work to do. Depth perception would be different. Some of the smallest baseball tasks would have to be re-learned.

"Put your hand over one eye," Ray says. "While you can see, things are different. Just brushing your teeth, shaving, would be different. You can adjust, but it would take a while."

"My vision, corrected, is now 20/70," Florie said earlier this month, after his most recent eye exam. "If it gets down to 20/50, I have a good chance at pitching."

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