Local News

Fayetteville baseball coach recovering after grill explosion

Posted June 11, 2012

— SwampDogs head coach Darrell Handelsman should be on the baseball diamond ordering players to round the bases.

Instead, he's gingerly rounding the hallways of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, where he just celebrated his son Sam's sixth birthday.

"It's emotional, Handelsman said Monday. "I mean, Sam canceled his birthday party today so he could come up here and just (celebrate) with his dad. When he says that to you, it makes you want to cry."

Handelsman, who also manages and co-owns the SwampDogs, was at J.P. Riddle Stadium in Fayetteville on May 24 – just days before the team's home opener – when he and three others were injured in a gas grill explosion, which has been deemed accidental.

He had been trying to come up with a new sausage and pepper sandwich for the concession stand.

Handelsman says he doesn't remember what happened next, but he was left with burns on his legs, hands and face.

Fayetteville baseball coach recovering after grill explosion Fayetteville baseball coach recovering after grill explosion

"To be honest, I didn't look (at the burns) the first few times I took a bath," he said. "It took me a week before I wanted to look in the mirror, and, you know, it was scary."

It's painful progress measured by the simplest things, like being able to stand up or finally being able to lock fingers with his wife.

Life, he says, will never look the same.

"When something like this happens, your priorities change," he said. "In the eight years (of managing the SwampDogs), I don't think I would have ever missed any games."

Instead of being dedicated to the family business of baseball, right now, he is just focused on family – his wife, Jody, Sam and his other son, 3-year-old Ben.

"It's painful," he says of his injuries. "Ultimately, what's gets me through, at the end of the day, is seeing Jody and seeing my boys and knowing that every day we try to get better is another day closer to getting home."

Handelsman missed opening day, and he's not sure if he'll be able to get back for the season.

"The SwampDogs and our business have been our lives for the last eight years, and I thoroughly enjoy it and love it, and it's my passion," he said. "But honestly, getting back to be with my family trumps everything else right now."


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  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Jun 12, 2012

    Thinking of you and your family..

  • VT1994Hokie Jun 12, 2012

    God bless him and his family members. Speedy recovery to you sir.

  • piloterror1 Jun 12, 2012

    wonder how long it will take for CH to outlaw gas grills......

  • Red Green Jun 12, 2012

    “I have a gas grill, how can I prevent something like this from happening to me? What caused the gas grill to explode, or burn these people?”

    Some of the reasons for the grill to explode could possibly be that the tank fitting wasn’t fully tightened; Insects could have possibly made a home in the venturi tubes, cracks in the supply line. Listed below are a couple of links to provide you with more information or you can Google “gas grill safety”.



    A couple of things not mentioned in either of these sites to do if you can “SAFELY” do so. If you have an uncontrollable flair up shut the lid and close the valve on the propane tank. If the grill is on your deck and you can safely do so, move it away from the railing.

  • Steve Mchugelarge Jun 12, 2012

    I have a gas grill, how can I prevent something like this from happening to me?

    Same as with everything you own. Preventive maintenance. Check hoses and valves, proper ventilation etc... Someone posted the link from the original story when it happened there are a few posts about how to check for leaks, you just have to wade through the snide comments to get to the informative ones.

  • just my2cents Jun 12, 2012

    Praying for a full recover. As a baseball mom in the league, we have been to "The Swamp" games many times as the opposing team. It's not a nice place to go, but this may soften the heart of some who didn't realize that there is more to life than winning. My prayers continue for this man and his family, I can't imagine the pain he is in.

  • lessismore Jun 12, 2012

    I have a gas grill, how can I prevent something like this from happening to me? What caused the gas grill to explode, or burn these people? Sorry for the pain these people experienced but would be nice for the person writing this article to expland, give some details....mayby keep something like this from happening to someone else.

  • Steve Mchugelarge Jun 12, 2012

    One of the other people involved is still at UNC hospital but is recoverying quickly and should be home soon as well.

  • Classified Jun 12, 2012

    “Yeah, how about some information about the accident. Lame.”

    If you were to utilize some investigative skills you might notice two links carefully camouflaged in plain sight right below the picture. And if you were to click (sorry, left click) on the top link it would redirect you to the original story where you would be provided with a wealth of details of the accident. Now that wasn’t too difficult was it?

  • computer trainer Jun 12, 2012

    Here is the first story: http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/11137227/