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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
The bucket-wearing fan injured by falling debris from the Wrigley Field center field scoreboard last week said he's fortunate the Cubs were losing at the time.
Had he not been wearing the plastic bucket on his head as a Cubs "rally cap," Kyle McAleer believes he might have been killed.
"Absolutely," he said. "It's purely speculation, but the way it hit me. ... If the Cubs weren't losing I would not have been wearing that bucket. It might've fractured my skull. It definitely could've been fatal. I am extremely lucky."
McAleer was sitting with family and friends under the old center field scoreboard during a Cubs-Diamondbacks game on July 24, the day before his 20th birthday. When Kyle Hendricks gave up three runs in the top of the fifth inning, McAleer said it was time for him and his dad and friend to put on the "rally" buckets, which actually were empty bubble gum containers purchased a few years earlier from a Sam's Club.
After the bottom of the fifth, a loose, 6- to 8-inch metal "pin" that holds the score tiles in place fell down from the scoreboard and struck McAleer in the head.
"I wouldn't be surprised if all the people in the bleacher heard that loud thud," he said.
McAleer said there was "considerable pain, but (it was) more shocking than anything else" because his ears were ringing.
The impact forced the bucket downward and knocked his glasses off. He first thought someone had thrown a bottle at him, before he saw blood rushing down from a laceration right above his hairline.
The Cubs' medical team responded quickly, and McAleer was sent to Illinois Masonic Hospital for treatment. He said he was conscious all along and documented the incident on his Snapchat account.
The Cubs confiscated the pin, which he estimated weighed about 3 to 4 pounds.
McAleer was released around 11:30 p.m. and went back to his hometown of Scranton, Iowa, the next day. The cracked bucket that may have saved his life still has blood on it and is sitting on a shelf in his house.
"It's amazing, the coincidence," he said. "That scoreboard has been around 81 years and this is the first time this has ever happened. And it just happened to fall on the kid wearing a plastic bucket on his head?
"I mean, what are the odds, man? I'm dumbfounded. I think about it and I've just got to stop and go 'Wow, man.' "
McAleer's biggest regret, he said, was having to miss the seventh inning stretch.
Cubs spokesman Julian Green said last week the incident resulted from "a loose pin that rolled out of the scoreboard when the tile was being changed," adding "there are no loose pins and the scoreboard is secure."
The Cubs did not respond to messages on Monday.
After the news broke, many were confused as to why McAleer was wearing a bucket on his head. He confirmed the containers were a tribute to "rally cap" bubble gum buckets worn on the head by former Cub Starlin Castro and other players during celebration during the 2015 season.
McAleer has since been in contact with the Cubs, who gave him some gifts, including a new Addison Russell jersey. He praised the quick response by the Cubs, and said there's been no decision about legal action down the road.
"If it was any other injury than a head injury, chances are this would've already been settled," he said. "But the fact it was a head injury, and there's still a definite possibility I could suffer concussion symptoms within a couple weeks or months after the incident ...
"I still have multiple doctor visits. I've got to get the staples removed, I've got to get a second opinion on my head. The road is long."