It was on a Sunday afternoon about five years ago. I had just gotten back to the city after visiting my girlfriend at the time and a bunch of my buddies were getting together to play an impromptu game of softball. It was the type of game where you don’t really keep score and everyone gets an at bat each inning. We were goofing around, diving at balls we normally would’ve easily caught and trying for behind the back catches.
In the fourth or fifth inning it was my turn to pitch and so I took the mound and even moved a couple steps in front of the rubber to toss some meatballs to the opposing team. The third or fourth batter I faced rocketed one right back at me that hit me square in the face, broke my nose and knocked me down. Blood poured out everywhere. I was on the ground kicking my legs until I came through. When I did, I asked those assembled around me if I still had my teeth. One of my friends looked through the hole in my face above my lip to find that I miraculously kept all of my top teeth but had lost a couple on the bottom.
I walked to the emergency room at Toronto Western and required 28 stitches to put my face together. I was so in shock that I didn’t even feel any pain until about five hours later when I was getting my prescription filled. I had to leave the Shopper’s Drug Mart to go vomit on the street. Other than the Oxycontin highs, it was not a very pleasant experience.
From a press release sent out today by sporting good manufacturers Easton-Bell:
Though serious injuries are rare, baseball pitchers without head protection face a level of risk that can be addressed through the development of a well-designed baseball pitching helmet. Easton-Bell Sports is leading research and development for a new era of baseball head protection, designed to provide baseball pitchers with the protection they desire without compromising comfort or performance.
While Easton-Bell’s pitching helmet likely wouldn’t have saved from a temporary Frankenstein face, it could be a life saver when you compare the damage that a baseball can do when goofing around to what could happen with Major League pitches coming off of Major League bats should make the validity of this innovation a no brainer, which humourously enough is exactly what you’d be if you were struck hard enough in the head with a baseball without protection.
It may seem strange to see pitchers wearing this at first, but I’m sure it was strange to see batters using helmets too when they were first introduced.
Unfortunately, Major League Baseball isn’t exactly known for being quick to act on innovations, and so it’ll most likely be a little while before we start seeing our favourite players take the mound with the best protection available. Progress will also be blocked by the tough guy machismo factor that we saw most recently in the late nineties when hockey players held out on wearing helmets. My only hope is that it doesn’t take a serious injury or death to push MLB into action like it did for first and third base coaches wearing helmets.
For more information on the new helmets, Easton-Bell CEO Paul Harrington spoke with Jeff Blair on the FAN 590 earlier today.