On the evening of June 23, the Edrington family left their Lutherville home for a night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They ate dinner at Dempsey's, had a few beers, and took a family photo with the man who plays the Ocean City lifeguard in television commercials — then headed down to their seats in Section 62, Row 4, just behind third base, in the third inning.
"That was the 'before picture,' " said Jim Edrington. "Then all of a sudden, someone said 'watch out.' You just hunker down, then boom."
A stinging line drive off the bat of Washington Nationals' second baseman Danny Espinosa hit Edrington square in the right eye, setting off a frantic 15-minute stretch in which a nearby spectator — who happens to be a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital Center — tended to Edrington and, along with a group of nurses he was with, provided first aid.
"Right after it happened, he was there in a second," said Jim's wife, Ellen, who was with her husband at the time. "I didn't know what was going on. I was in shock. He just came down, put pressure on his eye, and told all the other people what to do."
Jim Edrington doesn't remember much about the following moments. He remembers being carried up the stairs to the concourse, and knows he gave a thumbs-up to the nearby fans that gave him a standing ovation as he was pulled up.
The rest he's pieced together from his family.
His 21-year-old son, Marshall, said the whole situation couldn't have taken longer than 20 minutes. Ellen said her sons, Marshall and Grant, 17, were just as shaken as she was, but joked that Grant had the wherewithal to grab his father's full beer and bring it up to the concourse with him, presumably in case his dad wanted a sip.
Jim was put in a wheelchair and brought to the ER suite at Camden Yards, where the doctor who tended to him in the immediate aftermath of the shot recommended they go to Johns Hopkins instead of University of Maryland.
Once they were at the hospital, though, Ellen realized they didn't even know the man's name.
"It was something you hear in the movies," she said. "'Oh, I forgot to get his name.' You're just so wrapped up in everything. It's an out-of-body experience."
That night at the hospital, she began asking staff members if they knew who the doctor was, but with thousands on staff, nobody knew where to begin.
Over this past month, as her husband underwent a pair of surgeries on his eye, Ellen tried to track down the man. She contacted the Towson Times about her search to find the doctor.
"He was just a really great, great guy," she said. "It would be nice if I could just know his name. I would just thank him from the bottom of my heart for just being there, being in that seat and helping.
"I'm thinking it could have been much worse if he wasn't there," she said. "He knew what to do. (Jim) could have passed out. He really managed everything and saved the day for us."
Even with the doctor there, the evening ultimately cost Jim Edrington his right eye. The morning after the game, he had surgery to close off his ruptured eyeball, but the eye never began to detect light again. A week later, his eyeball was removed in a second surgery that also repaired the broken bones around his eye.
"It could have been a lot worse, too," Jim said. "They doctor said if it was 2 inches the other way, I'd be in a coma. Or, it could have been one of them (his sons or his wife). I try to look at the bright side, whatever bright side there is."
One positive part, he said, was the support he's received from his support network of family, neighbors and friends. He said everyone from the medical staff at Camden Yards to the surgeons at Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins have been outstanding.
The Orioles showered him with gifts, including a personalized Matt Wieters autographed ball, and have invited the family back as the guests of honor when the team unveils its Brooks Robinson statue on Sept. 29.
But as he continues his recovery — on July 30, Jim Edrington was prepared to go back to work in Washington, D.C. — the family still hopes for the opportunity to thank the doctor who happened to sit behind them that night.
"I've thought of every way to find out who he was, and I just don't know how to do it," Ellen said. "We would love, love, love to thank him for his help. He was such a great man that night."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun