I’m sick and tired of being right all the time!


1 Response to “I’m sick and tired of being right all the time!”

  1. April 28, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    HEADLINE: Dave Allen: High on helmets – while the debate around high school baseball focuses on banning powerful composite metal bats, finding workable protective headgear for pitchers continues to be hard to find

    BYLINE: Staff Report

    THERE ARE two parts to the physics equation that changed Gunnar Sandberg’s life. The impressive acceleration of the batted ball didn’t become frightening until it registered its crushing impact against the side of the Marin Catholic High pitcher’s head.

    More than six weeks have passed since the accident that resulted in a fractured skull, swollen brain and long-term rehabilitation for Sandberg. Much time, effort and money has been spent removing the highly engineered clubs from hitters’ hands in favor of wooden bats – the way the game was intended to be played. Let me join the masses of baseball traditionalists with safety concerns by adding my thanks. But not nearly enough attention is paid to protecting the human brain pitchers are asked to put in harm’s way after every delivery.

    With the North Coast Section board of managers considering a proposal to ban nonwooden bats Monday, I wonder why we haven’t given equal focus to the protective headgear that could have minimized the damage in the case of Sandberg and so many others through the years.

    “At first it felt a little corny but it took, like, 5 minutes to get used to it,” said Novato High pitcher Matt Mendelsohn, who didn’t resist his father’s suggestion of wearing a base coach’s helmet on the mound in one of the first games he pitched after Sandberg’s injury. He hasn’t pitched without it since. Up until Saturday, Mendelsohn and teammate Roland Nazar were the only varsity pitchers wearing protection. What is taking so long?

    Marin Catholic athletic director Rick Winter says the technology has yet to catch up with the demand. Since the accident, he has searched high and low. Helmets designed to protect a pitcher’s head while still giving the hurler peripheral vision are hard to find. Winter got a delivery of 12 streamlined Rawlings fielder’s helmets Friday. Assuming the fitted headgear feels good to the players, he plans to make them mandatory for freshman, junior varsity and varsity games as soon as possible.

    “Chris Valdez, our Principal, has always made it clear that this safety effort wasn’t just about bats,” Winter said. “We are aware that injuries can happen with any kind of bat. ? It’s just amazing that there aren’t more options for headgear out there. Yes, the injuries are rare, but they happen more than you think. Coming up with something that can protect at least part of your head is really an important idea.”

    Mendelsohn says the helmet fits better over his cap, but that it gets pretty hot on warm days. He isn’t complaining, but why can’t better options be created? Winter said his new helmets allow for ventilation. MC baseball coach Mike Firenzi said that one of the team parents, David Stone, is toying with a titanium insert for a traditional cap similar to the plastic insert former Giants pitcher Ryan Sadowski used for protection after brain surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma.

    “There hasn’t been a perfect solution yet, but we are looking at any options that are out there,” said Firenzi, who has seen the MCAL, the Bay Counties League and teams in a prestigious Diamond Sports National Baseball Classic tournament switch to wooden bats after Sandberg was hurt March 11.

    “Just because the bats issue has taken off like it has doesn’t mean we aren’t focused on headgear,” he said. “The speed of the ball coming off those composite bats is a big issue. I haven’t heard a thing about which way (the section) might go, but either way they decide, we are going to use wood bats the rest of the season.”

    Mendelsohn said he hopes to help his team make the NCS playoffs using a wooden bat at the plate and wearing a helmet on the mound. A vote against wood Monday means Marin teams could be facing teams with metal bats come postseason. Cost, inertia and unwillingness for directors to accept the dangers of nonwooden bats would be a tough pill to swallow, but Mendelsohn says the helmet gives him peace of mind.

    “That’s it, exactly,” Mendselsohn said. “I know we might face a team with metal bats down the road and wearing the helmet lets me focus on getting the batter out.”

    Baseball is a pastoral game with a relaxed atmosphere. What makes it great to watch are the unexpected moments of speed, power, acrobatics and, yes, violence. Nobody wants to eliminate those elements from the game we love to play and cheer. But if there are measures that will all-but eliminate life-threatening injuries, there is no reason good enough to prevent rules mandating protection.

    Sixty feet, 6 inches will always be the perfect distance from the pitchers mound to the batter. Now is the perfect time to make it a safer place for the boys to stand their ground.

    Dave Allen is sports editor at the IJ. E-mail dallen@marinij.com


    The health of Gunnar Sandberg, Marin Catholic’s pitcher who was hit in the head during a scrimmage March 11, continues to improve. According to reports on the family’s website caringbridge.org/visit/gunnarsandberg, Sandberg is walking on his own and gaining weight lost during his long coma. There is talk that he could leave the San Francisco rehabilitation center in the coming weeks. Check the site for info or how to participate in one of the many fundraising projects.

    Bats meeting: The North Coast Section will consider a proposal by the MCAL to ban nonwooden bats for the remainder of the season during its board of directors meeting Monday.

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