Fence 1, Rowand 0

Let’s start this by saying Aaron Rowand is great. Not only is he a fun ballplayer to watch, but also he’s a treat to deal with on a daily basis and is always engaging when approached to talk about any subject. Better yet, the guy loves to talk about baseball and is a real professional — one of many on this current Phils’ club.

That said, I hated watching his catch that potentially saved Thursday night’s game against the Mets in the first inning. Worse, I hated watching Pat Burrell frantically wave to the dugout for help as Rowand lay on all fours in front of the center field fence as blood poured out from his broken nose like an overactive faucet. I also hated watching him walk off the field with the aid of trainer Mark Anderson and a couple of paramedics.

It just wasn’t any fun.

But boy, what a catch.

For those who missed it, here’s what happened:

With two outs and the bases loaded thanks to Gavin Floyd’s walks in a 28-pitch first inning, right fielder Xavier Nady launched a 3-2 pitch deep toward the far center-field fence that surely was slated to be a bases-clearing triple. It’s also very likely that Nady’s blow would have spelled the end for the reeling and delicate Floyd.

But at the last minute, Rowand reached out as far as he could with his gloved hand, pulled the ball in, took a half step and crashed — nose first — into the exposed bar beneath the green padding near the 398-foot sign. Somehow he had the wherewithal to show that he held onto the ball, then rolled over on all fours and bled all over the warning track.

It was the greatest catch by a Phillies player in the six years I’ve been watching every day, and probably the best catch by a Phillie in a long, long time.

Now here’s why I didn’t like it: Rowand broke his nose on the play and has cuts all over his face. No one is sure how long he will be out, but any game without Rowand in the lineup other than a routine night off is bad, because he is clearly the heart and soul of the team.

That’s why I never understood why fans are so hyped up on players running into the fence — why? Who wants the best players to get hurt? Scott Rolen used to run into anything that got in his way and will end up having a shorter career because of it.

When it comes to players running into fences and other inanimate objects, the fence will always win.

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