When Joseph Kraft took his 10-year-old daughter to the Orioles game Friday night at Camden Yards, he expected a fun night out with his family, like he has had hundreds of times before.
Instead, he watched a nightmare unfold in front of his eyes, after his daughter was hit in the face with a baseball during batting practice.
Four days later, Jennifer Dempsey has undergone a grueling nine-hour surgery to repair a fractured skull, broken cheekbones, and crushed septum, among other injuries.
“To not be able to react fast enough, and seeing your child like that, is something I would not wish on anybody,” Kraft, a Bel Air resident said. “It is the most helpless feeling you will ever have. “
Jennifer is currently recovering at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Center. Kraft said she is awake and alert, but has an extremely long road to recovery ahead of her, and will most likely need medical care for the rest of her life.
While Kraft and his wife help their daughter recover, he wants parents to know just how quickly a night at the ballpark can go wrong.
When Jennifer was hit, while standing in the flag court before the park opened, Kraft said there were four adults standing right by, and all they could do was take one step—and then it was over.
“If one injury can be prevented from this whole incident, and one person can avoid what we just went though these past couple days it's worthwhile to tell people,” Kraft said. “No one realizes at 390 feet away how fast that ball is moving and how much damage it can do.”
During surgery, Kraft said Jennifer had 15 titanium plates inserted into her face. She can’t wear a hat, a helmet or ride a bike for the rest of her life, because she can’t do anything to cause the plates to shift.
Kraft said she will miss at least a month of school at Fountain Green Elementary, and will need to see someone from the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Kennedy Kreiger once they leave the hospital.
“It’s the furthest thing from your mind when you’re out for a good day at the park—that it could turn into a lifetime of needing medical care,” Kraft said.
When Jennifer was hit, Kraft said they were two minutes away from the park opening. An Oakland Athletics player was taking batting practice at the time. Kraft said his family has heard from both the Orioles and the A's since the incident.
"We have been in touch with the family. And we wish Jennifer the best and a very quick recovery," said Monica Barlow, director of public relations for the Orioles.
Kraft said he and his family are lifelong Orioles fans. They have collections in their home dating back to 1914. They have been to the ballpark “hundreds of times.” But they never saw this coming.
“It’s been a very, very eye opening experience,” Kraft said. “Every one of us that were there is feeling the guilt of we didn’t do enough. It’s definitely something you don’t want to see your child go through."