BILL DWYRE

Angels' Mike Scioscia is keeper of legacy as MLB chips at block rule

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Mike Scioscia

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, left, speaks to his catchers during a spring-training practice session on Feb. 20. Scioscia understands the physical and mental demands his catchers face every game. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press / February 20, 2014)

But he remembers a teammate who did in 2007, in a Midwest League game. Conger's Cedar Rapids Kernels were playing the Beloit Snappers and Jon Hodach was catching for the Kernels, when he was clobbered at home plate by Danny Santiestaban, now a major leaguer with the Royals.

"It was a bad one," Conger says. "They were both down for awhile. I don't think Hodach played much after that."

That, indeed, was Hodach's final pro season.

Conger says he took a shot on his jaw from an elbow, when his mask came up, in a spring training game a few years ago.

"The guy's name is Mitchell," Conger says. "I see him around, we even hang out a little. He always tells me, 'Hey, man. My bad.' "

Hester grew up an Atlanta Braves fan and remembers Olson being carted off after talking the shot from Caminiti. "There was no intent to slide," he says.

Hester, a Stanford grad, says that collisions are often the product of decent people caught up in the heat of the moment and doing something stupid. The Darin Erstad hit on Johnny Estrada in 2005 probably falls into that category. The Braves' Estrada suffered from post-concussion syndrome for several years and the Angels' Erstad was very public in his regrets.

"Somebody's health is more important than a game," he said.

Hester says he has been lucky, that his worst moment was jarring, but mostly a strange play. Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays collided with him and hit him high, but Hester held on. Almost always in that scenario, the runner is called out. This time, Lawrie was called safe.

"I went to argue," Hester says, "but Scioscia was right there."

Hester says Scioscia told him afterward he had "shown us a lot today."

To be clear, Scioscia is no advocate of mindless machismo on the part of his gate keepers. He has been dinged enough — maybe more than anybody — to know better. He thinks the new rules will gradually be sorted out and help.

"Blindside collisions are a thing of the past," he says.

So, hopefully, are three-minute departures from the world.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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