NOCATEE, Fla. – Moments after a Florida man, who later died, was hit in the temple by a softball earlier this month on a Nocatee field, someone nearby called 911 in disbelief, saying the player was immediately knocked out.
In the audio recording obtained by News4Jax on Tuesday, the 911 caller says Greg Fusco "went out cold," after a batted ball hit him in the head while he was pitching in a slow-pitch softball game Dec. 2 at Davis Park.
911 Dispatcher: "911. Where is your emergency?"
911 Caller: "Yes ma'am, I need an ambulance to 210 Davis Park Road. Someone just got line drive in the face with a softball. I think he went out cold. It immediately hit him."
In the audio, the man calling emergency responders sounds stunned by the incident, expressing how concerned other people at the sports complex for the softball tournament were.
Dispatcher: "What park are you at?"
Caller: "Davis Park. He got line drive in the face. Ma'am, he went out cold. He went out cold. It knocked him out."
Fusco, a newlywed from the Tampa area, died Sunday after spending about two weeks in the hospital. He had been a parks maintenance worker for the city of Dunedin since May 2015, and was described by his supervisors as "polite and professional," and "an asset to the department."
A city spokeswoman said a Celebration of Life Service will be held Dec. 30 at the Louis A. Vanech Recreation Complex in Dunedin, where Fusco regularly played softball and served as an umpire.
Funeral services have not yet be scheduled. A GoFundMe page has been set to help Fusco's family.
Death puts focus on softball safety
In the wake of Fusco's death, questions have been raised about safety and the rules for slow-pitch softball leagues.
In adult slow-pitch softball, the batter is only about 50 feet from the pitcher. Depending on how hard the ball is hit, players may only have a split-second to react.
The fields at Davis Park in Nocatee were mostly empty Tuesday afternoon. But News4Jax met Tony Nunziaro, a longtime baseball coach working to become an umpire. Nunziaro said he couldn't believe what happened to Fusco.
"Guys are coming out to play ball and you don't expect that kind of tragedy," the former baseball coach said. "There's knees, elbows, shoulders -- but death isn't part of the equation."
Nunziaro also talked about the sport's safety moving forward.
"Anything that can take the danger, especially of serious physical injury of death, out of the equation is a good idea," he said.
Some local leagues have taken measures to make sure pitchers are safe. Instead of face masks, they require screens to be in front of the pitcher to make sure they don’t get hit.
One of those leagues, Florida First Coast Softball, manages and implements safety measures for slow-pitch softball games in the city of Jacksonville. Another league in Jacksonville Beach, JaxSport, posted on Facebook, saying it will do the same.
Mike Lyons still pitches, but these days, he wears a mask. A few years ago, he was hit in the face by a line drive.
"I have never seen a ball, in hundreds of games, come off the bat, back to me, as fast as that. Usually, you can get a glove up. I think it hit the tip of my finger, but it just went 'boom," Lyons said, pointing between his eyes.
Lyons said he thinks the mask is a good way to prevent tragedies.
"I put this one on, and this is why I wear this one because it can hit my anywhere and I'm protected," he told News4Jax. "I would recommend it. I tell a lot of people, 'I highly recommend it,' because of what happened to me."
Many people in the softball community played against Fusco or have been impacted by his tragic death. Again, anyone wishing to donate can do so by visiting the GoFundMe page.