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KHSAA emphasizing softball safety

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By Brad Stephens

The KHSAA is recommending softball players at certain positions take further steps to protect themselves from injury.

Earlier this month the KHSAA Board of Control passed a proposal recommending the use of protective headgear for softball pitchers, first basemen and third basemen.

The proposal did not apply to baseball.

The Board made its recommendation after studying national injury data and after consulting the state’s sports medicine advisory committee, per a KHSAA press release.

The KHSAA proposed an amendment earlier this year to the sport’s national rules which would have required protective gear to be worn at those positions, but the proposal did not receive a favorable vote from the national rules committee, according to the release.

Local coaches had mixed reaction to the KHSAA recommendation.

“I think it’s great that they’re suggesting the use but that it’s not mandatory,” North Oldham softball coach Erick Anderson said. “I myself, I’m not a huge fan.

“If parents and families decide it’s in the best interest of their player than I support it. But as a coach I don’t want to make it mandatory for my players to use them. Myself, my brother, my sister were all ballplayers. We never used the face mask. It’s part of the game.”

Anderson said he’s “just not a big supporter of a lot of added hardware in the game.”

However he said that if the state eventually makes protective face masks mandatory at those positions, he “will gladly support it” rather than oppose the ruling.

Oldham County coach Steve Leanhart said he’s in favor of players at those positions wearing face masks.

He said a mask’s presence can make a player less hesitant when fielding hard-hit balls.

“I think that once they get comfortable wearing it, it’s more of a confidence thing of playing that position,” Leanhart said.

Recent trends in softball have dictated a need for face masks, Leanhart said.

As pitchers have gotten better, teams have made a concerted effort to manufacture runs by playing “small ball” – an offensive method that embraces bunts and running plays in order to set up scoring situations.

The best way to combat more bunts is often to have the first and third basemen scoot several feet closer to home. That way they can field the ball quicker and throw the runner out in time on the 60-foot base paths used in high school softball.

But when a hitter crouches into a bunting position before a pitch to draw in infielders and then pulls the bat back and swings away at the pitch, corner infielders can end up facing a hard-hit line drive at a shorter-than-usual distance.

“A lot of players do the fake bunt, then swing away,” Leanhart said. “So you’ve got a player that’s 40 feet away. That’s another thing that’s kind of scary.”

Email us about this story at sports@oldhamera.com.