Softball is not the soft fluffy sport many feel it is. In high school fastpitch softball the pitcher is a mere 40 feet away from home plate. That is 20 feet closer than in men’s baseball, and those pitchers are hurling the softball at speeds up to 77 miles per hour, according to experts.
There is only a reaction time of four tenths of a second in fastpitch softball. If a pitcher is throwing the ball between 50 and 70 miles an hour, the batted ball is traveling back at double the pitched speed.
Batters should protect themselves
Due to the close proximity and the speed in which pitchers are throwing the ball, it is important that batters wear a face mask. Just like a catcher, a batter is putting their body in the firing line, and an errant pitch, missed catch or foul ball could strike the batter in the face. But today, there is a growing need for fielders to use face masks.
What about the fielders?
No longer are face masks frowned upon by fielders as a line drive back at the pitcher could spell the end of their softball career. More and more fielders are donning face masks in softball as the chances of taking a batted ball in the face is too great.
For the most part, corner infielders and pitchers are at the greatest risk of being hit in the face. A hard hit ground ball or line drive at a third or first base position player could injure the player for life. However, injury is not the only thing or the worst thing that can happen. Players who have been hit with line drives have been killed over the years.
According to a Forbes article, softball has a high rate head and neck injuries. One reason the sport has such a high number of batted ball injuries is down to the dimensions of the field. The size makes it difficult to move out of the way of a hard hit ball.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association attempted to amend the national rules for players playing first, third or pitching to wear face masks. The group’s attempt to stop injuries to the face, and possible death, was rebuffed by some in the game. More and more groups are now allowing masks to be worn, although few associations and leagues make it compulsory.
Face mask saves life
In June 2016, a California teenager was playing third base when a line drive struck her in the face. Luckily, she was wearing a face mask and there was no damage. The teen’s mother told local news that she believed her daughter would have died if she hadn’t been wearing the protective piece.
The number of injuries due to batted balls in fast pitch softball seem to be growing by the year. It is a sport that can be dangerous for players if the right precautions aren’t taken. Luckily, some coaches, players and schools are seeing the light and why face masks are important in softball.