TARGET 8: Adopting baseball protection difficult because of stigma

1 year 8 months 2 days ago Thursday, May 19 2016 May 19, 2016 Thursday, May 19, 2016 5:07:00 PM CDT May 19, 2016 in Target 8
By: Tyler Hastedt, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - Although the probability is low, players being hit by a batted ball is a growing concern at the major league level, particularly for pitchers.

Eight major league pitchers have been hit in the head by a line drive since 2013. Target 8 decided to look at the current protection guidelines for high school baseball players in mid-Missouri.

Policy

According to the MSHSAA 2016 Baseball Manual, "Head protectors shall be worn as provided in Baseball Rule 1-5. All protectors will carry the NOCSAE Seal of Approval and warning label." That requires batters to wear helmets, but not fielders.

MSHSAA Communications Director Jason West said Article 5 of the same rule gives all players in the field the option to wear a face mask as long as it has a non-glare surface.

Even though this rule is put in place by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), West said he doesn't see many high school baseball players choosing to wear a face mask.

"We haven't seen a lot of it, if any, in Missouri yet," West said. "That may be coming. It normally starts at the younger levels coming up."

West said he sees more softball players wearing headgear because they start wearing it at a younger age.

"That really started at the youth summer league level and then when those girls went into high school and into college," West said. "Now you see it all the time at the collegiate level. As they moved up, they were more comfortable with it and it was just part of the game at that point. When the rules were changed to allow headgear or make it mandatory in some cases, it was a lot easier for those girls to transition into that."

Research

West said the difference between baseball and softball also results from baseball taking its own path in research.

"Baseball has kind of taken a different direction especially with the use of their restrictions on bats, and they've done a very good job of monitoring and testing the bats and bat speed, the contact of the ball off the bat, and how quickly the ball comes off the bat," West said.

West said the NFHS made a big push a few years ago to make the ratio closer to alleviate the risk of line drives. The NCAA also changed its bats to meet BBCOR standards in 2011.

The current standard used for non-wood bats by the NFHS and the NCAA is the BBCOR standard. According to West, all BBCOR certified bats must have a length to weight ratio no greater than -3.

"If you have a 33 inch bat, then the weight of that bat couldn't be over 30 ounces and that's how it progresses," West said.

The goal of the BBCOR standards is to make metal bats perform more like wood bats and improve player safety.

"You could have a 33 inch bat that weighs 27 ounces," West said. "Now the batter can get that bat through the zone a lot faster without as much drag and make the ball come off the bat faster because he or she can use their own strength. Having to have a heavier bat with the length, that causes the bat to slow down and the ball doesn't come off as fast." 

Another limitation placed on pitchers in the 2016 manual is the number of innings they are allowed to throw. The manual states, "A pitcher may not pitch in more than 10 innings during any consecutive three day period." 

"The other thing we began this year was pitch counts and kind of limiting the use of pitchers' arms because we found sometimes those big hits come when a pitcher has been throwing too much," West said. "He or she might be a little tired and drop a pitch right down where it doesn't need to be. Having fresh arms can help control the ball on the pitching level and alleviate some of those line drives as well."

Stigma

Dr. Aaron Gray is the doctor for the baseball team at the University of Missouri. He said he feels the tradition of the game prevents players from wearing headgear in the field. 

"Baseball is a game of tradition and history, and so I think naturally players want to continue the traditions that were passed down," Dr. Gray said. "Putting a helmet on a pitcher or a face guard on a pitcher is very revolutionary and a different type of thing than most players and pitchers are used to."

Rock Bridge High School head baseball coach Justin Towe said he has not had any conversations with his coaching staff regarding headgear protection for players in the field.

"I think baseball players kind of figure that's part of the game," Towe said. "Batters have enough pads...you know they might as well be catchers at times when they have elbow pads and ankle pads. Positional players have their gloves and their athletic ability, so in all honesty, it rarely ever comes up."

In an ESPN.com story published back on Feb. 17, 2013, former major league pitcher Joe Martinez opened up about the topic. Martinez was hit by a line drive while pitching for the San Francisco Giants in 2009. 

"They [pitchers] aren't going to want anything that makes them look goofy," Martinez said. "It sounds ridiculous, you think safety would be so much more important than what you look like, but baseball players like looking good."

Towe said this sort of stigma is part of the equation as to why baseball teams are reluctant to wear headgear protection in the field.

"I think that's probably some of it, and some of it is it's baseball," Towe said. "It's hardball. It just kind of comes with the game."

West said he feels there is a similar stigma at the high school level.

"We're still dealing with high school boys that are concerned with their looks," West said. "Baseball pitchers sometimes have a fragile ego because they're the one everybody is looking at, so they have that pressure on top of everything else. Every pitch, you're the one somebody is staring at be it a 500 seat stadium at the high school level to the major league level."

Rock Bridge senior pitcher Avery Jennings also said this sort of stigma exists at the high school level.

"There's a lot of players who just want to look good," Jennings said. "There are some brands out there that say 'Oh, we're going to protect you,' but really it's all about the accessories for a lot of guys."

Rock Bridge senior pitcher Brandon Goins said it's more about the issue of comfortability.

"I think it's more focused on the discomfort some of the protective gear brings or carrying extra weight," Goins said. "Sometimes it feels unnatural to carry it. Most people don't have to face getting hit by a baseball in your private areas or in your heart or anything like that, so most people don't worry about it."

West also touched on Goins' point of view. 

"I think the higher level you get in baseball and the more precision you need, having more equipment on your person, especially on the defensive side, may weigh you down and get you off your game just enough that you're not at the elite level anymore," West said.

Jennings said he sometimes thinks about the risks associated with his position, while Goins said he doesn't really think about it.

"It never really crosses my mind until I get a rocket right back at me," Jennings said. "I have been hit in the shin before. I've almost had my head taken off a couple times already this season. Sometimes I do look back, and I think I really wish I had something protecting me. At the same time, some of the safety precautions you have to take don't really look that great on the field, so I'll admit sometimes I stay away from them just because I want to look better on the field."

"I mainly trust my reactions to either get out of the way or catch the ball, but it's not really a worry of mine," Goins said.

Potential Research and Solutions

Target 8 asked Dr. Gray if he thinks anything can be done to change the stigma concerning players wanting to look good. 

"I worry that it might take someone getting seriously injured or possibly losing their life or having serious harm for that to come," Gray said. "I know there has been some work on getting padded pitching helmets but unfortunately the ones they have now are quite large and look different. I'm hopeful that through future technologies we can come up with equipment that can protect pitchers but maintain the look and feel of tradition."

West said he feels it might take a few injuries for protective gear to be mandated.

"I don't know if it will take a severe injury, but it may take a couple injuries before people really get into 'Ok let's take a look at this again' and get it fresh in their mind," West said.

Gray said any changes geared toward protecting players need to be the result of good data. KOMU 8 News asked Gray these three questions:

1) How would you go about collecting data if you were in charge of the research?

2) How much does seriousness versus probability of injuries factor into your process?

3) What data would you find the most helpful in determining what needs to be done to increase safety for pitchers?

Here are Gray's answers:

1) You first need to figure out how often pitchers get hit by batted balls in the head face and how serious these injuries are.  This will be different for each level of baseball (Little League, high school, college, MLB, etc)  To do this you need to figure out how much exposure a team’s pitchers had to this potential injury (need to know how many games each team played) and then you need to track how many times a pitchers gets hit by a ball in the head/face and how bad the injuries are.  Major league baseball is doing this.

2) In injury prevention we like to base our future decisions on previous measured data. That is why #1 above is so important.  You need to know how often it happens.  Unfortunately, sometimes a certain injury can be very, very rare but when it happens it can be a serious injury.  Sometimes a serious injury can be so unusually rare that it doesn’t make sense to protect every single athlete from that potential injury.  This is a complicated subject.

3) We need to know if preventive measures (rule changes, extra equipment) actually works to prevent the pitcher from being hit in the head/face.  NCAA changed their bats a couple years ago to make the ball not come off as hard and this was based on lab testing of different bats.  Protective face guards or helmets for pitchers need to be tested to make sure they work.  Real players also need to test it to see if it impacts how they play the game because if it impacts there normal performance they won’t wear it.

The NCAA and NFHS have made strides when it comes to monitoring the bats being used. The player is currently in charge of choosing whether to wear protective gear in the field at the high school level, and holding onto tradition brings a fair share of risks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More News

Grid
List
ST. LOUIS (AP) — U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was among a handful of Democrats in the Senate... More >>
2 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 6:19:02 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Hundreds of Missourians gathered at the Boone County Courthouse Plaza Saturday to march 10 blocks with the intention... More >>
3 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 5:20:00 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - One year ago, President Donald Trump was sworn into office, and on Saturday, supporters held a rally... More >>
3 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 5:00:00 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS - A CNN report that the FBI has opened an inquiry into Gov. Eric Greitens "would not be... More >>
4 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 4:05:00 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – A Jefferson City woman is encouraging people to lock their car doors after she caught a thief... More >>
5 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 3:42:00 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Members of the community met, adopted and played with cats and kittens Saturday at a Columbia pet store.... More >>
5 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 2:52:00 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said there was no blackmail or threatened violence in an extramarital... More >>
7 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 1:09:00 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have made an arrest in a double shooting that left a 46-year-old... More >>
7 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 12:49:41 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
SEDALIA - The Pettis County prosecutor has issued a warrant for the arrest of a man in connection to the... More >>
8 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 12:33:00 PM CST January 20, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Coyote sightings are becoming more frequent in the St. Louis area, and some are strolling down... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 10:37:36 AM CST January 20, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The number of confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease in Missouri deer is up, but... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 10:26:00 AM CST January 20, 2018 in News
RICHMOND, Va. - The Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking for the public's help with identifying a serial robber called... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 9:59:00 AM CST January 20, 2018 in News
CHARITON COUNTY -- Alonzo Bernard Thorpe of Clark, Missouri was found guilty of eight counts of child molestation and two... More >>
13 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 7:38:00 AM CST January 20, 2018 in News
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the final moments leading up to Friday's midnight deadline, Senate Republicans and Democrats were unable to... More >>
15 hours ago Saturday, January 20 2018 Jan 20, 2018 Saturday, January 20, 2018 5:00:00 AM CST January 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) - The FBI recently opened an inquiry into Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, two US officials told CNN, as he... More >>
23 hours ago Friday, January 19 2018 Jan 19, 2018 Friday, January 19, 2018 9:19:05 PM CST January 19, 2018 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - A visiting MU researcher is working to fight cancer with blueberries - specifically the extract of the fruit.... More >>
1 day ago Friday, January 19 2018 Jan 19, 2018 Friday, January 19, 2018 8:06:00 PM CST January 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Some facilities in the state may be required to hang posters with information about human trafficking by the... More >>
1 day ago Friday, January 19 2018 Jan 19, 2018 Friday, January 19, 2018 6:43:00 PM CST January 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri offered Amazon nearly $2.5 billion in incentives over 10 years in a bid to... More >>
1 day ago Friday, January 19 2018 Jan 19, 2018 Friday, January 19, 2018 5:25:09 PM CST January 19, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 49°
9pm 45°
10pm 45°
11pm 46°
12am 47°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

8:00p
Dateline NBC
9:00p
Saturday Night Live
10:00p
KOMU 8 News @ 10
8:30p
Bob's Burgers
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Will & Grace
7:30p
Superstore
8:00p
Dateline NBC
9:00p
Saturday Night Live
7:00p
Family Guy
7:30p
Family Guy
8:00p
Bob's Burgers
8:30p
Bob's Burgers
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld