Baseball bat-blocking Dad: Just protecting my son

By Amanda McKenzie, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 08, 2016, 10:31 AM EST

Talk about a close call. Some quick thinking from a dad blocked an errant baseball bat from hitting his son square in the face this weekend.

The incident happened on Saturday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex as the Atlanta Braves took on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Shaun Cunningham of Marion County planned to take his eight-year-old son Landon to his first major league game to watch their favorite baseball team, the Braves. But Landon has a lot more to talk about at school than peanuts and Cracker Jacks. He is now bragging about his dad, his hero.

“The bat came flying at me, my dad did this to block me," Landon said as he threw his arm in front of his face.

Photos taken by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review photographer Christopher Horner capturing that split-second save went viral.

“It was going so fast I didn’t even hear it," Landon said. 

Sitting three rows behind the Braves dugout, Landon was trying to send a photo of Pirates player Danny Ortiz to his mom using his dad’s cell phone.

“I was watching the game and I saw the bat flying," Shaun Cunningham said. "It just slipped out of Danny Ortiz’s hand. And I saw it heading towards him. I didn’t have a lot of time. Guess I’d call it Dad-mode. Just protecting my son.”

Response on social media is hailing that Dad-reflex the most heroic play of the game.

“It’s a good size bat, it definitely would’ve left a mark on an 8-year-old kid, especially in the face," he said. 

Instead, dad took the hit.

“Left a pretty good bruise and mark, but it’s getting better," he said. 

Landon only felt the tip of the bat strike his shoulder as it flew over his head. 

After paramedics finished checking out the father and son, the two stayed to finish watch the Pirates beat the Braves 9-6. But they had a new souvenir. 

“This is the bat right here," Landon said showing off his new prized possession. 

And a great story to tell.

“I have a great dad!" Landon exclaimed. "My dad’s a hero!”

Shaun said that despite the close call, he is very excited for his son to have such a memorable first experience at a major league game. He said they will treasure that baseball bat forever and are now hoping to get it signed by Danny Ortiz, the Pirates player responsible for the slip. 

Shaun Cunningham demonstrates where the bat hit him as he deflected it from his son at the Braves-Pirates game Saturday. He and his son got to take the bat home.