Like Rowand, Oetzel
has nose for ball

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   This story appeared in the Daily News on 5/17/06. It concerns a link between a Philly pro and Philly amateur.


By TED SILARY

  Chris Oetzel nose what Aaron Rowand is going through.

  In fact, he even has 2 days' experience on the Phillies' brassy centerfielder.

  It was May 11 when Rowand dashed face-first into an unpadded fence after making a sensational catch with the bases loaded. It was May 9 when Oetzel, a senior righthander from Nueva Esperanza Academy, took a line drive off the schnoz in a Public League preliminary playoff involving Class AA teams.

  The Scorpions, who wound up surviving, 18-17, were playing Engineering and Science at 11th and Cecil B. Moore. It was the bottom of the first. The 6-foot, 195-pound Oetzel, threw a 3-1 fastball. Bang!

  "Oh, yes. I can remember everything. I never lost consciousness," Oetzel said. "I can freeze-frame it. My glove is up. The ball's going over it. I thought I could catch it. I miscalculated how fast it was coming.

  "There was a huge puddle of blood on the mound. It was crazy. Everybody on both teams ran over. All I cared about was staying in the game. I kept telling my coach [Peter Lane], 'Just put some gauze in there. I'll be OK.' "

  Not quite.

  Oetzel (oat-zull) underwent realignment surgery Monday at St. Christopher's Hospital. Upon impact, he'd incurred roughly 10 lacerations in his left nostril and four in his right. He also had suffered a half-inch gash on the right bridge,

Chris Oetzel, Post Operation


where his glasses dug in.

   "The doctor said with a half-inch difference on where the ball hit, I could have died right there on the mound," Oetzel said. "It would have pushed back into my brain. That's a pretty bad thing to hear."

  Oetzel has seen video of Rowand's catch. And, yes, he's amazed.

  "I guess he has to be more of a hero, especially since he kept the batter off the bases," said a laughing Oetzel, whose father, Brian, and uncles were athletes at Olney High.

  The ball-face misadventure was not the first for a Scorpion.

  "A couple games earlier, one of our outfielders, Steven Quintana, came in for a flyball and misjudged it," Oetzel said. "It hit him on the side of the cheek and it swelled up pretty bad. We were calling him 'Chipmunk.' Then my thing happened. The guys are calling me 'Lion King.' "

  Oetzel, who lives in Wissinoming, plans to attend Philadelphia Community and study psychology.

  "I'm really proud of my teammates," he said. "I'm a captain. With me outta there, they not only beat Engineering and Science but won another playoff, too [before the season ended yesterday with a 9-3 loss to W.B. Saul]."