Coach: Rule changes aid safety

Published 1:44 am Friday, April 2, 2010

By By Adam Robinson
sports editor

During Darrell Blevins’ coaching career at Jefferson Davis Community College, he has never been hit by a batted ball.
Now, Blevins sees the rule change as another way to promote safety on the baseball field.
Baseball can be a dangerous game, with high school pitchers routinely throwing fastballs clocked at more than 90 mph and high-tech aluminum bats producing exit speeds of more than 100 mph on line drives.
The movement to improve baseball safety again bubbled to the surface recently when W.S. Neal pitcher Gary McGraw was hit in the face by a line drive March 22. McGraw remains under a doctor’s care and was treated Friday for suspicion of bleeding on the brain because of the injury.
The McGraw incident happened just a few weeks after a teenaged California pitcher was seriously injured by a line drive that hit him in the head. He remains in critical condition, and the league in which he plays has banned metal bats in the wake of the injury.
It’s unknown how many high school players suffer head injuries each year, but officials and coaches know it’s an omnipresent threat, especially for pitchers who are less than 60 feet from the batter when it is hit.
Some schools require pitchers in baseball and softball to wear a protective mask while on the mound, but there is no AHSAA or National Federation of State High School Association rule requiring it.
With players getting bigger and stronger, Blevins said, that leagues may need to re-examine the type of bats that hitters are allowed to use. Manufacturers have created at “trampoline” effect with today’s bats, which often leads to home runs but also has increased the chances of a pitcher being seriously injured.
Some have suggested that baseball at all levels should abandon aluminum bats and again adopt wood bats, which are used at all levels of professional baseball.
Bat companies would likely fight such a movement, with today’s aluminum bats costing upwards of $300 apiece.
That price tag has made aluminum bats a booming business for Louisville Slugger and other manufacturers, and they are unlikely to surrender that revenue without a fight. But in the name of safety, Blevins argues, a move to wood bats should be considered.
After seeing McGraw crumble after getting hit by the line drive, Campbell said he would be glad to abide by any new rule changes.