I still count it as one of the more traumatizing experiences of my life…
In college, I was playing on an intramural softball team. We made it to the semifinal round of the end of season tournament and found ourselves in a close game. One of our best hitters, a former high school baseball player and member of the university club baseball team, was up to bat. The pitch was delivered and the sweet spot of his bat made perfect contact with the ball, sending a screaming line drive right up the middle.
The pitcher didn’t stand a chance. The ball pelted the part of his face where the forehead and bridge of the nose meet. For someone who doesn’t do well with blood, it actually wasn’t the sight of the red misty cloud that sifted through the air on impact nor the horrific bloody aftermath that stained his face that haunts me the most. Rather, it was that sound of crushing bone that sticks with me.
It was a truly brutal scene. I couldn’t look as the poor guy cried out, his nose shattered and his face fully covered in blood. I looked away and called 911. As we waited for the paramedics to arrive, the girls on both teams were crying. Intramural officials did their best to tend to the player while many of us stared in shock with hands on our heads.
After the ambulance took the pitcher away, it was decided by both teams that we would finish the game. My team ended up winning and, without being able to visit with our opponents and get word on their teammate, we had to run to another field and play in the championship game. We won the title and somehow managed to smile for the obligatory photo, but we were all very shaken up.
Today, I read an article about a Florida man who died this past weekend from a vicious injury on the softball field. He was pitching and a line drive hit him in the temple. He leaves behind a wife who he was married to for just a month. The couple had recently returned from their honeymoon.
The International Slow Pitch Softball League is now making it a requirement that pitchers wear a mask while on the mound. Those players staunchly against it can sign a waiver and pitch without one. The rule has divided the softball community, with the folks against the new safety measure claiming that it is a kneejerk reaction to something that doesn’t happen often. Detractors also claim that pitchers should be able to field their position and protect themselves.
I know for a fact that I wouldn’t take the pitcher’s mound in a slow pitch softball game. Even before the awful incident almost 10 years ago, I felt like a sitting duck on the mound. The distance between the pitcher and batter is just not safe. Even more concerning, many of these slow pitch softball players participating in these leagues are ex-baseball players with loads of experience and violent swings. A line drive up the middle is going to do serious damage.
Coming from me, I support the new rule 100%. Slow pitch softball is an extremely popular sport that is beloved by many. However, it can turn to complete savagery with the swing of a bat. By the way, the pitcher who was hurt in that intramural game suffered broken bones but pulled through. I have no idea if he has any lasting effects from the injury today. Call me crazy, but I support safety measures. Don’t Blink.