Copyright 2011 Messenger-Inquirer
Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News
April 5, 2011 Tuesday
HEADLINE: E-Gal, parents strong advocates of infielder’s mask
BYLINE: Mark Mathis, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
April 05–Jennifer McFadden was thankful that her daughter, Sydney, had a protective face mask on when she was playing third base for Apollo High School during a freshman softball game at Henderson County more than a week ago.
McFadden, who normally plays first base, was hit in the face at third by a line drive.
“It happened so fast, she didn’t have time to react,” Jennifer McFadden said via e-mail. “Her mask was dented where the ball hit it so hard. According to her X-rays, her jaw is sprained and very sore. She had bruises on her hand, collarbone and face, even with the mask.”
The E-Gals player can’t open her mouth all the way, but as her mother said, “she’s still got all her teeth.”
Neither Jennifer nor Sydney’s dad, Mike, saw the exact moment of the injury, but watched it on video that another parent had taped.
“When we watched it, we didn’t know how bad it was,” Jennifer McFadden said during an interview. “She went back in the game, she’s a tough kid. She was like ‘when you fall off a horse, you get back on it as soon as you can.’ ”
The potential for a much worse injury was definitely there, as evidenced by an incident in Rockcastle County, where Holly Ham was hit in the face by a line drive during a softball game last Monday. Ham was not wearing an infielder’s mask and was filling in for an injured pitcher. Ham underwent brain surgery in Lexington late Monday night and was in a medically induced coma until she awoke Wednesday morning.
Ham is expected to make a full recovery.
Ham’s parents were asking that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association make face masks mandatory for all players, especially those playing third base or pitching. Infielder face masks are not mandated by the KHSAA.
McFadden’s parents also believe a KHSAA-mandated face mask rule would be good for the overall safety of softball, or baseball, players.
“Her dad and I feel strongly that it would be good if there was a rule in place,” Jennifer McFadden said. “We’re trying to protect them.”
In relation to the Ham injury, the KHSAA said these types of incidents sometimes cause rule changes, but there would also be other considerations before mandating infielders’ masks.
“The National Federation (of State High School Associations) has debated this subject much in recent years,” said Elden May, a spokesman for the KHSAA.
The national federation mandated that batting helmets have face masks for softball several years ago.
Sydney started wearing the mask a year ago after the family saw a player on a travel ball team get hit by a line drive. She had also been hit in the head by a ball in the seventh grade that had ricocheted off a metal pole during a soft tossing session.
Sydney had not wanted to wear the mask lately, but her parents insisted.
“Probably two or three days before that (the Henderson County freshman game) in practice, she was kind of like ‘I’m tired of wearing the mask,’ ” Jennifer said.. “Her dad told her she needed to be safe. It was real interesting. She said after it happened ‘Thank God you made me wear that mask.’ ”
Frank Stein, the varsity coach at Apollo, was not at the game where Sydney got injured, but both he and Owensboro Catholic coach George Randolph said it is a parent’s personal preference whether an infielder should wear a mask.
“If a parent wants their child to wear a mask, I’m all for it,” Stein said. “A lot of kids at earlier ages are wearing those masks. The ball comes off the bat faster than from the arm. The bats are getting hotter and hotter. The ball now flexes off the bat, and produces the recoil.”
Randolph, who has coached Catholic to five state fast-pitch state championships, also thinks wearing the infielder’s mask should be a personal preference. None of the Catholic infielders wears a mask.
“There is a risk involved in playing the game,” Randolph said. “There are isolated incidents, and things like (facial and head injuries) happen. For safety purposes, it would be good. The question is, if it was mandated, is whether the high schools would incur the cost or the parents.”
Certainly, the McFadden’s think their investment in the mask for Sydney was well worth it.
“When this happened, I put a picture on Facebook with her in her mask,” Jennifer said. “One person replied that they were going to get their daughter one the next day.”
Mark Mathis, 691-7313, firstname.lastname@example.org
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