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TREMPEALEAU COUNTY, Wis. – Pitchers are taught to bear down if they find themselves in a jam. A minor league baseball pitcher hunting in western Wisconsin took that advice literally.

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Dalton Roach, who pitched for the Springfield Cardinals in 2021, was bitten in the back by a black bear that climbed up a tree stand while the 25-year-old was hunting for deer, the Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire reported.

“It’s definitely not totally uncommon for a bear to go into a tree with a hunter,” Roach told KARE-TV of the Oct. 16 incident. “But the fact that he actually starting gnawing on me and stuff, like that was a little abnormal.”

Roach called the bear “curious.” He began recording it before the animal began climbing up about 20 feet to the deer stand, KARE-TV reported.

“He was just kind of moseying around. He didn’t look like he was on any kind of a mission or anything,” Roach told the Leader-Telegram. “But when he got to about 20 yards away, he took a left turn and came directly under my tree.”

Roach, an Eau Claire native who graduated from Memorial High School in 2014, stopped filming and weighed his options.

“I thought, ‘OK, it’s time to put the phone away. I want to be hands-free now,’” Roach told the newspaper. “The next thing I know I can hear him right behind me and feel him breathing on my back.

“Then I feel a paw on my lap. He just kind of left the paw sitting there, so it’s not like I wanted to make a big move and make him squeeze.”

Roach said he felt the camouflage gear covering his back tightening and realized the bear was biting him.

“I jump up from sitting and now I can turn to face him,” Roach told KOLR. “You know, I kept my arm big and wide that way and then just tried to act as big as I could. Just trying to get as large as humanely possible and just started yelling at him.”

The bear had seen enough, so it climbed down the tree and left the area.

“Luckily, he kind of leaned back, seemed to say, ‘What the heck,’ and eventually got out of the tree,” Roach told the Leader-Telegram.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, bears are active trying to consume food before hibernating, KARE reported. But they are nervous, so the agency recommends making a lot of noise if a person encounters one.

Roach said he relaxed when the bear walked away, but the animal stopped about 15 yards from the tree.

“He didn’t look like he was coming back, but I was still uncomfortable because he was looking at me a little too intently and had just been up in the tree gnawing on me,” Roach told the Leader-Telegram.

Roach said he raised his bow in case the bear returned. He went to the emergency room and received a rabies vaccine. Doctors believe he will even have a scar, KARE reported.

“I think it makes it a little less believable because I think people are under the impression if a bear bites you, you’re missing something,” Roach told the television station. “So along with it being a cool story, it can be an educational tool too.”

Roach had a 7-10 record with Springfield in 2021, striking out 119 batters in 114.2 innings. It does not appear that the bite will affect his career. He said he felt fortunate that the incident did not escalate.

“I think we’re pretty lucky that the way everything went. I can’t imagine he was anything more than curious. My wife would love me to say, you know, he was curious not furious,” Roach told KOLR. “He wasn’t in a position of like true aggression, fortunately, because otherwise, it just would have gone differently.”