The Baltimore Sun is reporting that 25-year-old Matt Fortese of Hagerstown, Maryland was seriously injured in an alleged assault by two men during Wednesday's Nationals-Orioles game at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Police identified the alleged assailants as Michael Bell, 21, Annapolis and Gregory Fleischman, 22, of Jarrettsville and charged both with assault upon their arrests this week.
According to the report, Fortese suffered severe head trauma and a skull fracture, and had to be revived at the scene by an off-duty state trooper. He's now listed in serious condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
It's said Fortese was attending the game with Taylor Queen, who travelled over three hours from Virginia to meet him at the ballpark. It was their second date together and it was going well until the two fans alleged in the assault noticed he was wearing a Yankees hat.
Sadly, that is what this entire incident stemmed from — a decision to wear another team's hat. It then escalated to truly sickening proportions.
Here's more from the Sun report:
By the fifth or sixth inning of the matchup with the Washington Nationals, the couple had endured about an hour of heckling, mostly about Fortese's hat, from two men sitting a section above them, said Queen, 21. Then one of the men threw a beer that hit the couple, according to police, and when Fortese approached the men and began arguing with them, one punched him in the head.
The blow sent Fortese over a railing and onto the concrete about five feet below.
Police are saying it was Fleischman who threw the punch. Strangely, the off-duty state trooper who rushed to Fortese's aid was Nathan Steelman, a childhood friend from Hagerstown who he hadn't seen in years until their brief discussion at Wednesday's game. It was a chance meeting at a random time and place, but Steelman's presence may have saved Fortese's life.
"You just heard it," Steelman, 26, said Friday of the commotion. "I rushed over, and I realized it was Matt. He wasn't breathing. He was unconscious. Blood was coming from his nose."
He said Fortese had gone as long as 45 seconds without breathing. Steelman, relying on basic emergency medical training he received as a soldier deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, stuck his finger in Fortese's mouth and removed a wad of chewing tobacco that had blocked his airway. Fortese drew a breath.
When reading this you can't help but think about Bryan Stow and the trauma he went through two years ago after a brutal assault in a Dodgers Stadium parking lot. It's all so senseless. All of it. It's just baseball. How a disagreement over team preference escalates to this point is both mind-boggling and scary on several levels.
Unfortunately, though, what's done is done. All we can do now is hope for good news on Matt Fortese's recovery, and hope that something changes going forward. That tough guy fans can smarten up and lighten up just a little bit so other fans can relax and enjoy a ballgame at any ballpark they choose wearing any hat or uniform they choose.
Big BLS H/N: Eye on Baseball