By Jim Callis
February 7, 2002
After reaching an out-of-court settlement with Anthony Molina, Cubs pitching prospect Ben Christensen discussed the 1999 incident in which he beaned Molina while warming up before a college game. While Christensen didn’t want to get into the specifics, he said he never meant to injure Molina.
“No one felt worse about what happened than I did,” Christensen said. “It wasn’t intentional. You don’t want to hurt someone. The whole thing was an accident.”
Molina was a junior second baseman and Evansville’s leadoff hitter for an April 23, 1999 game at Wichita State. Christensen was the junior ace of the Shockers. When Molina ventured out of the on-deck circle and within 20 to 30 feet of home plate, Christensen fired a warmup pitch–clocked by radar guns at 91 miles per hour–at him.
The ball struck Molina above his left eye, breaking bones and permanently damaging his vision. At the time, The Wichita Eagle quoted Wichita State pitching coach Brent Kemnitz as saying he taught his pitchers to brush back hitters in that situation.
Though Molina returned for his senior season in 2000, he batted just .266 and any chance he had for a professional career effectively had ended. He played two games in the independent Frontier League in 2000, going 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. He now works as a rental agent for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Henderson, Ky.
The sides settled a pair of lawsuits Molina had brought against Christensen on Feb. 5, with the terms remaining confidential. Molina had sought $2 million in damages.
Attempts to contact Molina through his attorney, Rand Wonio, were unsuccessful. Molina recently told the Kansas City Star that it was obvious to him that Christensen hurt him on purpose. “I couldn’t care less what he’s doing with his life now because he ruined mine,” Molina told the Star.
Christensen said he has made repeated attempts to meet with Molina, to no avail.
“I’ve apologized to him time and time again,” Christensen said. “I sent him a letter which he wasn’t really responsive to. I wanted to meet him and shake his hand this week, but he didn’t want to. I don’t know what else I can do. I hope we both can go on with our lives.”
Per the terms of the settlement, Molina withdrew a suit in Kansas state court that charged Christensen with battery and sought punitive damages for committing an intentional act. That case was to have gone to court Feb. 5 in Wichita. The day before, Sedgwick County District Court judge Paul Clark ruled that Molina would have to prove that Christensen intended to injure him, a decision that spurred the settlement.
Christensen also was removed from a pending federal suit in Kansas City, Kan., that has been stuck in appeals. Molina also sued Christensen for battery and continues to sue Kemnitz and Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson for negligence in that case.
Christensen, who was suspended for the remainder of the 1999 college season, was drafted 26th overall that June by the Cubs and signed for $1,062,500. He reached Double-A within a year after turning pro, but was hampered by shoulder tendinitis in 2000 and required shoulder surgery to repair some fraying and tighten the capsule last year.
He threw off a mound in Arizona in late January and said he felt good. He threw a total of 30 fastballs and changeups, plus 20 sliders, with good velocity and movement and without pain.
While he still has to put the finishing touches on his comeback from surgery, Christensen is glad that the incident has been resolved from his standpoint.
“It took me a long time to get through this,” Christensen said. “I don’t think I ever would have been the same if I had meant to hurt him. It was an accident. I prayed every single night for me and for him to get through this. I still do.”