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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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on May 6, 2008, in General Thoughts, Team defense. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I couldn’t disagree and agree with you more. Let me start with my disagreement. As for the pitcher I believe they should be required to wear a mask. The pitcher is the single most defenseless player on the field. More so than even the batter who when I last checked, was required to wear a helmet. The reason why your daughter doesn’t want to wear a face mask is probably because it looks stupid. Make it a rule and don’t give them an option and they will learn to make them fashionable. As for the fielders, I agree with you, I don’t think they should be required to wear one. If the third baseman doesn’t want to get hit in the face with the ball, then don’t play in so close. They have an option, the pitcher doesn’t. If they have been sucked in anticipating that a hitter will bunt and the hitter swings away they have time to crouch and protect their face. Your one in million estimation of getting hit in the face with a line drive is possibly a little exagerated. I don’t see anywhere near a million balls hit in play a year (more like 400 games/yr x 40 balls in play/gm = 16000 balls in play a year) but I see a kid get hit in the face every year.Also, your take that we didn’t have all this protection when we were younger and we survived is also not true. You and I may have survived, but not all of us did (not to mention it’s not simply about survival). The argument that you survived any unprotected accidents is not a good one for not wearing protective equipment. A lot of people have survived Russian roulette too.

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  2. Coach Rich, just curious. Do you feel the same way about baseball pitchers?

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  3. Why would the logic be any different?I care about the kids I coach and the kids we compete against. I’ll let the baseball folks legislate their own game. They’re too busy worrying about putting helmets on the base coaches to figure out the pitcher is the most vulnerable.Do you think hockey goalies should wear face masks? How about the skaters, should they wear helmets. How about the throat protector?

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  1. Pingback: Fastpitch Face Masks Revisited | Life in the Fastpitch Lane

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