Daily Archives: May 6, 2008

Face masks for pitchers and players

Reader Rick put up a question on a previous post asking what I thought of the face masks now being worn by pitchers and other players. He thought it might make a good new topic and I have to say I agree. So here we go.

For me there isn’t a simple answer. To be honest, I’m kind of old school about masks myself. I personally find them rather odd. I thought face masks for hitters was a good idea, especially with all the bunting that goes on in fastpitch. In fact, I think they’d be a good idea for boys baseball too.

But when it comes to fielders I’m having trouble getting behind them. I’m not sure why. I guess it seems like overkill to me. I kind of understand pitchers wearing them. They stand awfully close after release, and the act of pitching consumes the bulk of their attention. With all the high tech bats out there they don’t have a lot of reaction time, and in the one in a million chance one of those pitches comes rocketing back at their faces they have some level of protection.

My own daughter has had a couple of line drives whiz past her ear recently. When I asked her if she wanted a mask she just gave me a funny look and said “no.” But for other pitchers it’s the right thing to do.

It seems less critical for outfielders or other infielders, with the possible exception of third base. Out in the field you should have plenty of time to read and react to a batted ball. A charging third baseman who gets suckered on a fake bunt and slap might be vulnerable, but other than that it just doesn’t seem necessary to me.

Keep in mind I grew up in an era when you didn’t wear a helmet to ride a bicycle, and baserunners in youth baseball would use a device rather like earmuffs instead of a full helmet. We survived. I think players are better trained and more athletic than in my playing days, so there’s even less risk.

That being said, ultimately it’s a personal preference. It doesn’t really hurt anything to wear a mask. If a field player on my team chose to wear one I might secretly roll my eyes but I wouldn’t stop her. If you’re more comfortable playing with one knock yourself out. But I sure hope the day never comes when it’s a requirement. It just seems like overkill to me.

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