Scott Fowler

How a Yankee rookie’s horrific injury reminds me of a crazy Panthers story

New York Yankees rookie Dustin Fowler sits on the field after suffering a season-ending injury during the first inning of his first-ever big-league game Thursday.
New York Yankees rookie Dustin Fowler sits on the field after suffering a season-ending injury during the first inning of his first-ever big-league game Thursday. AP

Let us reserve a moment today to think a kind thought for Dustin Fowler, who Thursday night with the New York Yankees suffered a heartbreaking injury in the very first inning of his very first Major League Baseball game.

Fowler’s terrible injury, which you can view here in an ESPN clip, reminds me of an old Carolina Panthers story about a guy named Ryan Sutter – a player you remember only if you are a Panthers junkie or a fan of “The Bachelorette.” Sutter had an NFL career that lasted exactly 10 seconds for the Panthers, although he later attained a different sort of fame.

First, Fowler (who is no relation to me). The 22-year-old prospect from a small town in Georgia has been working his way up through the Yankees’ farm system and made his MLB debut in a road game against the Chicago White Sox. He waited nearly three hours through a rain delay. He watched his new Yankees teammates score a run in the top of the first inning and knew he would be scheduled to bat leadoff in the top of the second.

But in the bottom of the first, Fowler chased a foul ball into the wall while trying unsuccessfully to make a great catch. He instead banged into the railing and an unpadded metal box and ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee. He tried to walk away from the collision and instead fell down. He was rushed to the hospital for surgery that same night. Fowler’s season is over, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game, and his recovery time will be at least six months.

“I was in tears, actually,” Girardi said. “Because I know what it takes to get here and how hard he has worked and what is supposed to be a really exciting day for him turns into a really bad day. I’m still in disbelief.”

Sutter had a roughly similar start to a pro career. As a rookie safety for the Panthers out of Colorado in 1998, he was first buried on the practice squad on a bad Carolina team that would go 4-12 in Dom Capers’ final season as head coach. But the Panthers had a lot of injuries that season and late in the year they activated Sutter and put him on the kickoff coverage team.

On the opening kickoff of the game, Sutter dislocated his shoulder while trying to make a tackle. He never played again in the NFL.

Like New York Yankees rookie Dustin Fowler, the Carolina Panthers’ Ryan Sutter was injured almost immediately in his NFL debut in 1998. Jeff Siner

But don’t feel too sorry for Sutter. In 2003, during the first season of TV’s “The Bachelorette,” Sutter turned out to be the final choice of bachelorette Trista Rehn.

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Former Carolina Panther Ryan Sutter (right, asking “Bachelorette” Trista Rehn to marry him) only played 10 seconds in the NFL. But he achieved a different sort of fame in the world of reality TV. CRAIG SJODIN AP

While most of those reality-show pairings don’t last, this one has. “Ryan and Trista,” as they were known in the tabloids for years, have two children. Sutter has been a firefighter in Colorado for the past 17 years. They made headlines again recently when Trista had an unexplained seizure during a family vacation in Croatia.

As for Fowler, let’s hope he can get back to what he was.

We don’t need this to be another Moonlight Graham story – a doctor and UNC graduate who played in one MLB game in 1905 but never got to bat (although he did get famous as a character in “Field of Dreams.”)

Or another Ryan Sutter story, either. Even if that one did have a happy ending.

Former Carolina Panther Ryan Sutter has been tabloid fodder for years, ever since he was the choice of the first-ever “Bachelorette” Trista Rehn in 2003. They are still married and live in Colorado, where Sutter is a firefighter. AP