Longtime SF Giants prospect and outfielder Mac Williamson is still dealing with severe symptoms from a concussion he sustained in 2018. On Tuesday, he filed a lawsuit against the owner and operator of Oracle Park for exposing him “to an unreasonable and unnecessary risk of harm.”
The SF Giants third-round pick in the 2012 draft, Mac Williamson immediately became one of the best outfield prospects in the team’s farm system. For the next seven years, Williamson would consistently battle to be a part of the team’s future plans. However, things never quite came togther and the organization designated him for assignment in 2019.
One setback during Williamson’s Giants tenure, a concussion he sustained after being tripped by a bullpen mound in foul territory at Oracle Park park in 2018, could soon be the focus of litigation. On Tuesday, Williamson announced he filed a lawsuit against China Basin Ballpark Company LLC (CBBC), a Giants subsidiary that owns and manages the operations of Oracle Park. The lawsuit claims “that CBBC knowingly exposed players to an unreasonable and unnecessary risk of harm by placing the bullpens on the field.” Randy Erlewine is representing him in the case.
Prior to the concussion, Williamson had spent the offseason working with hitting instructor Doug Latta, best known for helping Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner rebuild his swing, and seemed to have transformed his career. In spring training, Williamson blasted four home runs and posted an incredible .318/.333/.727 triple-slash. While he did not make the Giants Opening Day roster, it was only a matter of time.
Starting the season with the Sacramento RiverCats, Williamson laid waste to his Triple-A competition. After just 11 games (50 plate appearances), he already had 6 homers, more walks (7) than strikeouts (5), and a .487/.600/1.026 line. Needless to say, with the Giants still struggling to find consistent offensive production, he quickly got promoted to the big-league club.
Williamson’s tear didn’t slow down much against MLB pitchers. Through five games, Williamson hit 3 home runs and was hitting .316 before the concussion forced him to the disabled list. On the year, between spring training, Triple-A, and MLB, Williamson hit .394/.447/.879 with 13 home runs in 114 plate appearances.
Close to a month later, Williamson returned to Sacramento for five games and seemed to pick up where he left off. Back at Oracle Park though, he was unable to find that success. Over the next three months, splitting his time between Triple-A and the Majors, Williamson managed just a .202/.299/.358 slash. By the second week of August, the lingering effects from the concussion would force him to cut his season short.
Today, even though it has been nearly 30 months since Williamson’s concussion, per his statement, he continues to struggle with vision problems and post-concussive symptoms. While he did play professionally in 2019 with the Giants, Seattle Mariners, in the Korean Baseball Organization, and has not officially retired, he’s yet to completely put the concussion behind him, per the statement:
"“My life hasn’t been the same since suffering the injury… The concussion ended my career and left me with life-long injuries that have also taken a significant toll on my personal life. I’m fortunate to have such an understanding fiancé who has been there every step of the way and helps me get through the days I suffer nausea, trouble sleeping, mood swings, and other issues. I wake up every day hoping that today is a better day and that I will get closer to how I felt before the injury.” -Mac Williamson"
The crux of the lawsuit centers on Oracle Park’s bullpen mounds in the field of play. Prior to their move last offseason, the Giants were one of the few baseball teams that did not have their bullpens out of play. Williamson had been advocating for the change but was far from the first. Per the release, former Giants managing partner Peter Magowan told Williamson that longtime MLB Commissioner Bud Selig had asked the team not to place mounds in foul territory. While Selig was far from an ideal league executive, time proved him right on that.
In Williamson’s live statement to reporters Tuesday, he said, “Everyone’s career ends at some point, but to have it taken from me because the bullpen mounds were unnecessarily placed on the field is very hard to cope with.” Later, he noted that he had not planned to sue the park originally but decided to because he felt the owners needed to be held accountable for putting every player at risk for so long.
The Giants have issued a statement in response to the suit noting MLB teams have historically addressed claims like Williamson’s through the collectively-bargained grievance process agreed to between the league and player’s association. From their point of view, Williamson’s case should not go through litigation. Of course, that decision will be in a judge’s hands now.
Players at Oracle Park are much safer now without mounds in foul territory. However, players like Mac Williamson were not quite as fortunate. While Williamson may have been the first to be severely harmed by them, there had been many close calls over the 18 seasons at the park prior to 2018. Now, the SF Giants could soon face legal consequences for their negligent decision to wait so long.