Can We Stop Pitchers Being Beaned?
By Jim Bain
Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays, MLB pitcher is the latest victim of being struck in the head with a ball off the bat of a hitter. Why the sudden increase in this type of injury?
It's hard to fathom today's players hitting the ball harder than home run kings Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron, and other legendary players of the past. However, no different than all other sports, today's Average professional athlete is stronger and faster than yesteryear's superstars.
This can be construed as equating to instead of a pitcher facing 1 or 2 players in the line-up capable of hitting a screamer off the bat, they face 8 or 9 if pitching in the American league.
Basic mathematics, more risk equals more injury.
Injury in sports is an unfortunate element regardless of how many safety factors are implemented, however this type of injury should definitely not only raise a red flag, but wave it violently in regards to amateur baseball.
The nearly 100% usage of composite bats, used in little league through college, is nearly as dangerous as giving players a loaded gun and playing Russian Roulette. The live round will eventually be fired.
The make-up of these composite bats amplify the speed and power of a ball as it leaves the bat, turning an average hitter, into a power hitter. Considering the shorter pitching distances and undeveloped skills to attempt to avoid a ball hit directly back at the pitcher, this creates a severely dangerous situation.
I realize manufacturing composite bats is a huge business, but changing the process to making wood bats instead would soften the economic blow. Some people may say who cares about any economic impact on a business when we're discussing our children's' safety, but let's be realistic, it'll be a major objection.
I'll conclude my opinionated article with this 2 cents worth of opinion. We, as coaches advanced coaches have failed miserably in teaching players the basic principles of pitching mechanics.
I'll also add little league coaches have done an outstanding job of teaching in relation to high school, college and professional coaches. Lost my mind? Not hardly.
Remember hearing the pitcher is another infielder after he throws the ball? At one time, finishing their pitching motion in a fielding position was every bit as important as learning how to throw a curveball.
If you're fortunate enough to have access to old baseball cards, check out the pitchers' photos on the card. Chances are the picture will show the pitcher in one of two poses, a windup or finishing in a fielding position.
Somewhere along the line a pitcher or two became dominate throwing with unorthodox or non-traditional pitching mechanics, falling off the mound instead of ending in a fielding position. Not knocking it, but sports is a result driven business and if eliminating the basic ending fielding position of the pitcher results in more strikeouts and wins, so be it.
Basic physics, for every action there is an equal reaction.
Elimination, or non-stressed fielding position, equates to pitchers being in an awkward or totally impossible position to avoid being struck by a hard hit ball, much alone field it.
Pitchers being hit by screamers off the bat is not a new phenomenon, but for whatever reason, the head becoming an ever increasing target, seems to have elevated. Perhaps as an omen?
I'm not suggesting we move the pitching distance to 70 feet, or lower the mound or anything else drastic in order to address this issue. In fact implementing half thought out actions would be the worse thing we could do.
All I'm saying is baseball is America's sport. Let's not make the mistake football did in regards to ignoring concussions. If there is something we can do to reduce this type of injury, then let's do it. If not, then so be it. But let's not ignore it.
Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player and member of "Baseball Coaches of America" shares his advice on baseball coaching baseball drills on his exciting info packed website: http://www.learn-youth-baseball-coaching.com
Be sure to check out his 2 books on Amazon, "The Pitch" and "Season of Pain". Great reading about baseball.
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