Coaches, trainers look about safety of metal bats
By By Adam Robinson
W.S. Neal pitcher Gary McGraw was cruising along with a no-hitter against Flomaton at home.
Little did he know, the one hit he would give up would be the one that could have changed his life.
Coming on the heels of a similar and more serious incident in California recently, it has raised questions for coaches, trainers and players about the safety of aluminum bats on the baseball field.
One of the ‘scariest’ moments
What happened next is one of the scariest events Grace said he has ever seen.
Grace’s worst fears were true — McGraw had been in the face with the ball and lay bleeding on the mound. Not knowing how serious the injury was, Grace called for an ambulance and let athletic trainer Antonio Davis take over.
Davis, the trainer, said that at the scene he tried to calm McGraw and assess his injuries.
McGraw’s head baseball coach at W.S. Neal said he was “stunned” by the hit, noting this was the first such incident he had witnessed in his many years in the game of baseball.
McGraw said all he remembers is throwing the ball and waking up in the dugout and seeing everybody around me.
In the wake of McGraw’s injury, Campbell said the Eagles — who were down 3-2 — rallied to win the game, but players were still shaken by the incident.
Dangers of the sport
McGraw’s injury is not the only one this high school baseball season. In California earlier this month, a 16-year-old Marin Catholic High School pitcher was hit by a line drive and suffered a serious brain injury. Gunnar Sandberg remained in critical condition last week, and the Marin County Athletic League on Thursday voted to ban the use of metal baseball bats for the rest of the season for the league’s 10 teams, The Associated Press reported Friday.
Prior to the incident, Davis and a co-worker had been discussing how dangerous baseball is compared to other sports when it comes to head injuries.
Davis said he did not have any stats about the injuries, but his opinion is that changes need to be made.
Davis said athletes in high school are bigger, stronger, and more powerful than athletes in the past.
Grace noted that bat regulations have been changed regularly in the last few years to increase the safety of the players.
And Grace said metal bats in high school are a must, in large part for financial reasons. Most high school programs struggle to just get by and be able to pay the umpires, he said.
Neal head coach Campbell said he had never thought about the issue of extra protection or different bats until the accident last week.
Campbell said he doesn’t necessarily think wooden bats are the answer, but he said his players’ safety comes first.