Should softball players be required to wear face-masks?
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association will now require some high school softball players to wear face protection (face-masks), the first state to make it a requirement. They have also recommended the rule be implemented for middle school softball for this upcoming school year.
The face protection will be required for pitchers, first basemen and third basemen.
This USAToday article does not state why the rule has suddenly been implemented in Kentucky. You can assume it was because of a frightening incident that happened back in April of this year.
A hard line drive hit Union County Kentucky softball pitcher, Evyn Hendrickson, in the face.
According to the Tristatehomepage news
“A Kentucky high school softball player was airlifted to Evansville after taking a line drive to the face. It happened during Friday night’s game at Union County High School.
Eyewitness News is told senior pitcher Evyn Hendrickson was hit in the face, she was not wearing a face mask.
They county fire chief says she was first taken to the local hospital and then flown to Evansville.
Hendrickson just signed a letter of intent to play softball for Kentucky Wesleyan college on Thursday.”
This has lead many to wonder if it should be mandatory that high school pitchers wear face-masks.
Having witnessed something similar, one Kentucky high school coach was already requiring her players to wear masks. If you play in Estill County, it is required. She hoped that the rules would change when it comes to safety.
As reported by Lex18.com
“The bats are hot. The ball’s coming off so quickly, that you know it’s just common sense to wear a mask to protect yourself,” said Shirley Beard, the Estill County Softball Coach.
That’s why Coach Beard has her pitcher, first and third base players all wear masks. Beard said that it was a lesson learned from an opposing team who also had a player hit in the face.
“They feel like they can’t see well, but once you use it and get used to it then it’s like wearing a pair of glasses,” said Beard.
Beard hopes that the video of the Union County pitcher getting hurt will lead to change.
“We hope that when anybody sees that they think, ‘I don’t want that to happen to me, so I think I’ll try to start wearing a face mask’ if they just wear it around the house and try to get used to it,” said Beard.
Evyn Hendrickson suffered multiple broken bones in her face, and one surgery was required due to the injury. Even before the surgery was scheduled, Evyn said she “couldn’t wait to get back on the field and play”.
Personally, I am a bit torn on this face mask requirement. I tend to lean away from mandated requirements, and these are high school players. They are older players who generally have more softball experience. However, it is a safety issue and we all want to protect our children when we can.
Wearing face masks in softball is a relatively new thing. I never saw face-masks until about 4 years ago when my daughter’s 14U competitive organization required girls playing in the infield to wear softball face protection.
When she moved up to 16U with a different organization, infielders weren’t required to wear them, but many did wear face protection by choice. At 18U you see few girls wear softball masks, but you will occasionally see a pitcher wear one.
The high schools in my area don’t require face-masks, and I’ve never heard of a coach requiring it, or even suggesting it. I have seen a few high school infielders, most often pitchers wearing face protection, but it’s been a personal choice.
It is scary seeing a pitcher take a ball in the face. I was at a high school game where the pitcher took a hard hit ball directly in the face. She just collapsed. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt as badly as the girl in Kentucky. She did wear a bag of ice over her nose, and you could see she was going to have a swollen nose and two black eyes. I would suspect she also had a concussion.
Having seen that, I do like to see pitchers wearing face-masks. They are the most vulnerable when it comes to getting hit in the face, because they have so little time to react.
Generally, first and third baseman have more time to react, so I don’t think it should be a requirement for them, maybe more an an encouragement.
If my daughter were a pitcher, I would insist she wear a mask while she’s pitching. It seems to me the decision should be a voluntary one, with the parent and athlete making the decision, with the strong support of the coach.
We all love softball, but it is just a sport and not worth risking your face, or possibly even your life.
So lady pitchers, I strongly suggest you start wearing a softball face-mask now. Even if you are young, you may as well start getting used to it now. Then in later years it will be a part of your gear, that you can’t do without.
Continue to wear that mask through your high school years, and even through college. Not because you are being told you HAVE TO, but because it makes sense to protect that beautiful face.
After all, I think it’s kinda cool to wear one now…even Florida stand-out pitcher Kelly Barnhill wears a softball face-mask.