Composite bats should be banned, face masks for fielders required

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OK, so when is someone going to finally step up and admit that using composite bats is a mistake?

When someone dies? That will happen soon, believe me. Especially if coaches don’t force players to wear face masks, which players dismiss as uncool even though they can save their lives.You’ll find travel softball players using these masks at summer tournaments, although mostly at the younger age levels.

Two weeks ago in Mattoon, I watched a batter drill a line drive right off the face of a third baseman in a U-14 game. The ball was hit so hard it popped about 20 feet in the air before being caught by the shortstop. The girl dropped to her knees, where she tossed off her plastic face mask, probably wondering how in the hell she survived such a wicked shot. She was a little sore but did not suffer any major injuries. Without the mask, she would easily have broken a nose, cheekbone or eye sockets. Or, she might have died.

Yet, face masks for fielders are not required by any of the three major softball organizations – National Softball Association, United States Specialty Sports Association, or the Amateur Softball Association. Nor are they required by any other organization that sanctions youth baseball.

At the very least, these masks should be worn by pitchers and corner infielders. Pitchers are between 35 and 43 feet from the plate, too close to react to a hard hit ball at any age level. And third basemen play even closer, moving to within 20 feet of batters during apparent bunt situations. Coaches, parents and softball organization officials should be ashamed for allowing kids to play without masks at these positions.

Even hockey players, among the toughest athletes in sports, wear protective head gear while goalies fully cover their faces. Wearing face masks is not a sign of weakness but of intelligence.

A recent study reveals that 60,000 injuries happen in baseball and softball each year, much lower than in softball, soccer or basketball. But injuries to the face were more likely to require surgery in softball, according to this study.

The most common mechanism leading to baseball and softball injuries was being hit by the ball (including thrown balls, pitches, and batted balls). In baseball, being hit by the ball accounted for one in five injuries; in softball, it was one in four injuries. Other commonly stated mechanisms were throwing the ball (one in five baseball injuries; one in seven softball injuries) and contact with bases (one in eight baseball injuries; one in seven softball injuries). Home plate was the most common location for baseball (one in five) and softball (one in four) injuries. In both sports, injuries resulting from being hit by a batted ball were usually to the face and were more likely to result in surgery when compared to injuries resulting from other mechanisms.

About five years ago, the National Federation of State High School Associations required face masks for batting helmets. Now, the NFSHS should require face masks for all pitchers, third basemen and first basemen.

Of course, composite bats –  that can drive balls at far greater velocities than aluminum or wooden bats – are the biggest problem. As are the coaches and players who tamper with these bats, illegally altering bats so they drive the ball farther and faster.

“Because of the exit speed of the ball off a doctored bat, it becomes a liability issue,” Middle Tennessee State Coach Steve Peterson told The Tennessean. “The rules state that a manufactured bat cannot outperform a wooden bat. But when you get the tampered bat, and you have that trampoline effect, a pitcher or infielder cannot react quickly enough.”

A radar gun recently clocked the exit speed of a ball off one composite bat at 115 mph, 17 mph over the NCAA’s limit. Thankfully, the NCAA is already working on ways to detect tampered bats (but this is only part of the solution.) Returning to wooden bats makes more sense, especially for baseball. Even slow-pitch softball pitchers are at risk, having about .4 seconds to react to a liner right at them.

Wearing protective fielder face masks, which cost about $39, makes far greater sense regardless of the bats used. They protect players in other sports. Why not softball and baseball as well?

Certainly, this is a topic worth investigating. Perhaps, the added pressure will force those in charge to look out after kids putting their lives at risk.

Here’s a story about two players in northern Illinois who were severely injured by line drives.

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20 Responses to “Composite bats should be banned, face masks for fielders required”

  1. Bob Says:

    I agree 100%, as you can see I have a company that sells only protection for ballplayers.

    I have 4 travel teams and require my girl’s to wear the EMask .

    It’s not how good you look on the field but how good you look at the prom !

  2. Adam Says:

    Sir,

    I just wanted to leave a comment saying how much I appreciate your blog. As a young writer, who will be attending college this fall, your tips have really become a great help to me. I read them day and night, and every time I am fascinated by how “far off” I have been from what is right.

    Students who have you in class should be considered grateful.

    Please, sir, keep up the excellent work.

    Adam

  3. kelly Says:

    i dont disagree with you on the helmet issue but your view on bats is askew and thier uninformed. composit bats are no more dangerous than wooden ones. wooden bats can be altered as well as when they do break the broken end 95% of the time fly’s directly at the pitcher. would you rather have a ball rocketing at you or a sharded broken wood bat?

  4. Adam Risch Says:

    Kelly, you are the one that is uninformed. Or perhaps you feel threatened by the prospect of having to hit without a composite bat.

    Composite bats have ruined slowpitch softball and they are now ruining fastpitch and baseball from college all the way down to little league. The whole concept of a bat getting hotter over time after it is manufactured to meet a certain standard is ridiculous. Add in the fact that composite bats can be easily altered by rolling or shaving them and now the playing field has been tilted drastically in favor of those willing to cheat. Not to mention that fielders are in danger of being seriously hurt or even killed (it has happened numerous times in slowpitch already). I never heard of anyone having to wear a mask in the field before composite bats came along. It’s time to level the playing field, put the game back in the hands of the players, and ban composite bats for good!

  5. Mike Says:

    Yes a mask for High School baseball players is worth it. My son a HS pitcher was hit with a line drive in the face. Multiple broken bones,ten days in a trauma center, 150,000 in medical bills. This year he will be wearing a mask made by Rip Hamilton’s Doctor.

  6. Layne Says:

    I COMPLETELY disagree! you are on crack, no one’s going to die from a stupid composite bat you are over reacting. THATS WHY THEY MAKE FACE MASKS!

  7. Layne Says:

    ya jidiot

  8. Matt Says:

    I can understand why people want to ban composite bats but saying that fielders should require masks is a little absurd. Just shows how parents are getting more and more protective and its getting to the point to where its just to much. All sports have there risks. If you dont want to take those risks then dont play! Nobody will care if you dont. Extreme paranoia is getting out of hand. All Athletes Should be held accountable for protecting themselves to some extent and if you cant ,again dont play! Its that simple.

  9. Ultimate Says:

    What is your views on the Combat bat for baseball – B1 – 100 Composite

  10. Kevin Says:

    I have played numerous sports over the years and manufacturers are always trying to change the equipment. It usually results in higher prices and cheapens the sports and makes record keeping of stats meaningless. My kid is playing in 8y bball and this is the first season where I have started see these monster bats. Not only to they perform better they are wider accross! Coach pitch is turning into slow pitch softball, with the scores to match. But I have also learned that if you don’t keep up with the equipment changes you will loose to inferior athletes. Just makes me appreciate the old athletes and what they accomplished. And someone is going to get killed. It really is like playing goalie without pads.

  11. jesse Says:

    i disagree because one the infeilder should be able to catc a ball two an aluminum or alloy bat the ball can be hit just as hard

  12. Sue Martin Says:

    I have 5 girls, all who play softball ranging in age from 11-16. I have seen many, many games over the years and have seen the game get faster as the girls age. Last year I got to witness my oldest, who at the time was playing 3rd in a 14U tournament, get drilled in the head by a ball that was hit from a composite bat. Terrifying to watch, have it on video. She managed to somewhat deflect the ball with her glove, but it went over the top of the glove hit her sunglasses, shattered them and left a cut that required eight stitches above her left eye. She had very little time to react. The ER doctor said that the $5 sunglasses she had on probably saved the eye socket from being shattered. In the same tournament a pitcher had her teeth knocked out when a hit ball struck her in the mouth. Luckily they knew an oral surgeon who met them at the hospital to repair her teeth. Her jaw was broken also…..

    Last nite I watched my other daughter who is also playing 3rd on the High School Varsity team get drilled in the knee. The ball hit her so hard that it rolled to the 2nd baseman who threw out the runner at 1st.

    My kids love sports and are fearless. None of these incidents happened because of a lack of skill, but because the game is very fast, the field is short and the bats are dangerous.

    The problem I am having now is that the high school coach asks her to play close on the bunt to get the runner at 1st. My daughter does that well, that is why they moved her from JV to Varsity as a sophomore. She has a mask, but will not wear it because no one else does. After what I saw last nite she will be wearing it again.

  13. Katie Says:

    I totally agree with the face masks! I have been playing softball for 8 years and last year in the tournament a composite bat broke and went flying at our pitcher. Thankfully she ducked and did not get hit. But all of the pitchers on my team wear face masks and I think that all pitchers should have to wear them. I think that all leagues should push the idea of face masks.

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  15. Hunter Says:

    . I don’t think high schoolers pitch or hit as fast and hard as the pros so why talk about it (wooden bats breaking) i have witnessed 3 abulances come to our ballparks and composite bats and lack of protection is the culprit

  16. MarkJ Says:

    Anyone who thinks science and technology have not changed these games is crazy. In the last 3 years, I have seen 3 pitchers take hard line-drives to the face and one third baseman take a line drive right off the top of the forehead. The third baseman was wearing a mask but the 3 pitchers were not. These kids could all catch but they just didn’t have enough time to react. The injuries to the pitchers were so severe, I don’t believe they will ever be the same player they were and they may end up totally finished with softball. There is no real good reason to have composite bats. Keep in mind that in softball, the bases are closer and so are the fielders. For those that argue the seriousness of this issue, I really doubt you have personally seen the damage these bats do to players. If you had, it’s pretty simple, you wouldn’t be saying what you are.

  17. Face masks/ball coming off the bat statistics Says:

    […] […]

  18. Mike Nidoh Says:

    I am for the fielder face mask for young girls playing softball . Young girls at the age of eight and ten years of age should wear them , because they do not have great reaction to the ball . A lot of girls feel more confident when wearing them. I wish Asa would take a closer look at this for the safety of the girls playing softball.

  19. Jacob wrisner Says:

    Hello, i completely agree with everything you wrote. I am a pitcher for five separate teams and i was pitching for the senior league while i was in junior league and got line drived in the face without a mask. It broke my nose, cheek bone and eye orbit. It also cut my nasal cavity so it fills with blood a lot. The pictures i have a brutal. It was almost a year ago (July 26, 2104 is when it happend) and i still have trouble with blood running down my throat. People may call me crazy but i am playing again this year, with a mask, i am still pitching, for the senior league now. And i will continue to play until i get tired of it which will be a while. Thank you for your concern about this.

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