i hate being right all the time…


1 Response to “i hate being right all the time…”

  1. May 12, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    Bert Strane is motivated about saving baseball players from head injuries, but he’s taking a different approach from the usual argument of banning metal bats.

    He’s all for wooden bats, but his main concern is protecting the head with a supportive liner that fits inside a baseball cap and covers much of the skull.

    He has developed a product, HeadSafe, that he hopes to manufacture to prevent ballplayers from young children to major leaguers from incurring serious concussions or, even more serious, obituaries.

    Strane isn’t out to replace the batting helmet. His inner-liner helmet, made of a durable, high-impact plastic, is designed to protect those in the field pitchers, but also infielders, baserunners and base coaches.

    University of Arizona baseball player Kelsey Osburn was killed in 2000 by a line drive to the head while running the bases without a helmet during batting practice.

    First-base coach Mike Coolbaugh, of the minor league Tulsa Drillers, died in 2007 from a batted ball against a helmetless cranium while he was looking away.

    On March 11, Marin Catholic High School pitcher Gunnar Sandberg, 16, was hit in the head by a ball hit off an aluminum bat. He was in a coma for three weeks but is recovering.

    Had Sandberg had been wearing Strane’s cap liner, he might not have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

    And University of San Francisco pitcher Matt Hiserman, whose skull was fractured by a line drive in a Feb. 13 intrasquad game, is back on the mound for the Dons and pitching well with no apparent mental reservations. Hiserman, who also suffered broken sinus bones when struck by a line drive in a high school game five years ago, now wears boxing-headgear-like padding under his baseball cap.

    But Strane is mostly concerned about little kids, because 3-year-olds are playing baseball or T-ball these days.

    “At 3, they can’t protect themselves,” he said.

    Strane gave his cap liner to baseball programs at UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Jose State and the University of Santa Clara, but they refused to wear them, possibly because of too few air holes at the time.

    “They didn’t feel comfortable,” he said, “until you get hit by a line drive.”

    Cap liners preceded the batting helmet, but the hitters who wore them Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks, for instance had a much thinner version of Strane’s creation, which weighs only 3 ounces and now is properly ventilated.

    Interestingly, Strane was at the advent of the experimental aluminum bat craze when he and identical twin Alvin played baseball at Santa Clara in the mid-1960s. They didn’t like the concept, but it didn’t go away.

    Strane has worked on his cap liner design for 15 years to make sure it was sturdy enough, and airy enough, without being cumbersome. That’s why it comes in all sizes.

    Strane delivered a cap liner to New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia but is unsure whether the Vallejo native and Fairfield resident is wearing it today.

    “And he’s been hit before,” Strane said.

    The sad point of all this is that no organization, from Little League to Major League Baseball, has made cap liners mandatory.

    “And a lot of these kids at 7 are playing with hardballs,” noted Daryl Thomas.

    “We’re talking about a safety issue, not winning ballgames,” added Jethro McIntyre. “What is more important?”

    Vallejo resident Strane, 62, is assisted by Alameda native Thomas, 49, and Pittsburg resident McIntyre, 64, in promoting his product. Led by McIntyre, a former big-league scout and an Oakland native along with Strane, all three serve as instructors in a series of 10 free youth Sunday baseball clinics each fall.

    McIntyre managed the minor league San Jose Bees in 1985 when his pitcher, Brian Kubala, stopped a line drive with his skull. That ended his season, but he pitched two more years.

    “We shouldn’t be having to talk about investors for something that could save someone’s life,” McIntyre said.

    But that’s exactly what’s required. Strane needs backers, and Major League Baseball hasn’t stepped up to the plate or onto the mound.

    Strane can be reached at 510-472-7215 or by e-mail at bertstrane@yahoo.com . It could be a matter of life or death.

    Dave Newhouse’s columns appear Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays, usually on the Local page. Know any Good Neighbors? Phone 510-208-6466 or e-mail dnewhouse@bayareanewsgroup.com .

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