The photo stops you in your tracks: A bewildered boy, a flying baseball bat, an outstretched arm between them. It's the stuff that nightmares are made of, but thanks to a father's instincts, this time there was a happy ending.
The drama went down at a spring training game in March. Shaun Cunningham and his son Landon were cheering for the Braves against the Pirates when a bat slipped from the hands of a Pirates hitter and flew into the stands -- heading straight at Landon's face. Without thinking, Shaun reached out his arm and deflected the bat. The photo of the moment, captured by Christopher Horner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, shows just how fortunate Landon was: The bat was just a couple inches from striking him square in the face.
Landon's dad made sure that wouldn't happen, and in honor of his heroic actions, we're proud to make Shaun Cunningham the first inductee into the Sports Fans Hall of Fame.
Fans are the unsung, everyday heroes of the sports we love, and the Fans Hall of Fame celebrates the very best of them: fans who go above and beyond to show their dedication to their teams, support one another, and make sports even more fun for everyone.
We'll announce a new inductee into the Fan Hall of Fame each week. If there's someone you think deserves the honor, [click here] to nominate them.
Since Shaun's big moment, he's gotten tons of props from his fellow fans -- and he's made the rounds on major news outlets. As he told the TODAY Show:
I didn't have a lot of time to think. Once I realized that it was heading for my son, I just did anything I could to block it from hitting him.
A true father, but also a true baseball fan -- Shaun had some reassuring words for Danny Ortiz, the Pirates outfielder who lost control of the bat:
It was an accident; things happen. I wouldn't want it to affect his play.He's a good ballplayer and he's got a shot. I want him to not worry about it. This kid's fine. He's tough.
And so is his dad.