Shaun Cunningham took one for his 8-year-old Landon on March 5.
The father and son duo were watching the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Atlanta Braves in a spring training game in Orlando, Florida, when a bat flew into the stands. So Shaun did what any dad would do: He threw his arm up, and shielded his child’s face.
“I didn’t have time to think, it all happened so fast,” the Florida-based firefighter tells Us Weekly. “I just reacted and went into dad-mode to protect my son. My family is my life, everything I do is for them.
Landon was looking down at his phone to send his mother a text when Shaun saw the bat slip out of the hands of Pirates outfielder Danny Ortiz. Photos of Shaun’s lightning-fast reflexes were captured by Tribune-Review photographer Christopher Horner. Within hours, the pictures went viral.
“My arm is still slightly discolored and bruised, but I’ve had worse!” says Shaun. Luckily, Landon only felt the tip of the handle clip his shoulder.
Shaun and Landon were seated just three rows behind the Braves’ dugout. The excursion was an early birthday present for Landon, who had never been to a professional baseball game. He will turn 9 on March 18.
“Landon is excited about attending more games,” Shaun tells Us. “He has stated in several interviews, ‘as long as I can sit next to my Dad!’”
Landon took home the bat as a souvenir. “We are mounting it above his bed,” says Shaun. “His room is baseball-themed.”
Though Landon hasn’t heard from Ortiz as of yet, Frank Coonelly, the President of the Pittsburgh Pirates sent them tickets for a spring training game on March 13!