Rays pitcher rehabbing in Charleston is expected to recover after being shot while in a taxi at restaurant drive-through.
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG -- Pitcher Nick Bierbrodt was in "serious but stable" condition Friday night in a Charleston, S.C., hospital after being shot twice in what team officials said appeared to be a "random act of violence."
Bierbrodt, working his way back from a severe loss of control, was in a taxicab around 3 a.m. Friday with Rays minor-leaguer John Vigue and a 27-year-old Brandon woman waiting to pick up an order at a Hardee's drive-through when the shooting occurred.
After surgery, Bierbrodt was in the intensive-care unit of the Medical University of South Carolina. One bullet apparently went through his right bicep and into this chest, the other directly into his chest. Bierbrodt throws left-handed.
Team, hospital and police officials indicated the injuries, barring complications from bleeding or infection, did not appear to be life-threatening, but they said doctors wanted to further evaluate Bierbrodt's recovery before upgrading his condition.
"He took a shot through the right arm into the chest and another into the chest, so obviously it's extremely serious," Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said, but he added he expected Bierbrodt to be moved out of intensive care "relatively quickly."
According to the police report, witnesses said the shooting stemmed from a "short verbal exchange" between Bierbrodt, who was sitting in the back seat, and a young male, possibly a minor, riding a bicycle.
Bierbrodt apparently thought the young male's rap music was too loud and "told him to knock it off, in so many words," the taxi driver told the Charleston Post and Courier. The young male then rode up to the passenger side of the car and fired into the back seat, said the driver, who took Bierbrodt to the hospital.
Police still were investigating Friday night and had made no arrests.
Bierbrodt and friends apparently were headed back to their hotel after a night out when they decided to stop for some food. They were the second of four cars in line, and witnesses in the cars in front of and behind them provided similar accounts.
"Nick was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," agent Jeff Leibster said.
Bierbrodt, 24, was assigned to Charleston this week to continue his comeback from the severe loss of control during spring training that cost him his spot in the rotation. He pitched well in his initial outing Wednesday and was scheduled to pitch again for the Class A team next week, then move up to another minor-league team, with a projected return to the majors in July.
"It's just incredible how fast things can happen," LaMar said. "Here's a young man that the sky was the limit when spring training started, he struggled, he battled his way back from a physical situation and was just getting food at a drive-through restaurant. It can happen to any of us at any time, and it just happened to Nick Bierbrodt.
"This goes on and goes on with no rhyme or reason in the real world and sometimes we feel sheltered. ... It just strikes closer to home when you know somebody involved."
It seems unlikely Bierbrodt will be able to pitch again this season. LaMar, though, said he was more focused on Bierbrodt's recovery then any baseball-related issues. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nick," he said.
LaMar went into the clubhouse before Friday's game to tell the players what had happened. "Nick Bierbrodt was not only a teammate but a hell of a guy and everyone in that clubhouse knows it," LaMar said. "Silence was the reaction."
Manager Hal McRae said it helped that there was some positive news to the announcement. "I think everyone's concern is, 'Is he going to be okay?' and it appears he'll be okay."
"Very disturbing," said Rays outfielder Jason Conti, who was traded from Arizona to Tampa Bay with Bierbrodt in July. "You're sitting in a drive-through and you get shot."
Rays pitcher Joe Kennedy, Bierbrodt's roommate, declined comment.
Vigue, a Seminole resident who recently was demoted to the Hudson Valley team but had not left Charleston, was not injured. He declined comment and hung up on a reporter. The woman, Melissa Sigmon, also was uninjured.