A Progressive Approach To Head Injuries In MLB
Kudos to Major League Baseball for banning home-plate collisions. To those who believe it hurts the game, I urge you to don the tools of ignorance and allow yourself to be blindsided by another grown man who’s braced and ready for impact. To be qualified to speak about it, one has to experience it.
My first time being knocked out during a home-plate collision was as a 16-year old. It was summer ball and I stood a foot in front of the dish waiting for a relay throw. I wasn’t actively blocking the plate and it wasn’t going to be a close play, but that didn’t stop the base runner.
Instead of pulling up for an easy run scored, he used his arm to protect his face and the point of impact was his elbow into my temple.
From what people told me about the incident, I was out cold for about 30-seconds and my parents freaked out in the stands as they watched in terror. When I awoke, the coaches and umpires were huddled around me and I was flat on my back. They helped me up, and I stayed in the game after walking it off.
It wasn’t until my next at bat, a ground ball to the left side, when I was finally removed from the game after running towards the opponents dugout instead of down the first base line.
The day after the incident, an MRI revealed a concussion and I was forced to miss a week of games. The ruptured eardrum left me dizzy and with a lingering headache — all because some dumb kid decided to imitate his heroes on television.
Fast forward to my freshman year at the University of Kentucky. Fall baseball was a proving ground for incoming freshman. I showed up on campus with the understanding I was the only freshman catcher to learn my roommate was also a catcher, as was a guy down the hall. Needless to say there would be healthy competition.
About two weeks into the fall, I was starting to hit stride and get used to the consistent velocity of SEC pitching. Early in a fall game, I was once again waiting for a relay throw at home plate when fifth year senior Pete Prior (played or the White Sox organization) bowled me over. I was only out for a moment this time, but sustained another ruptured eardrum which knocked off my equilibrium.
I missed one day.
I don’t remember being checked out by the training staff, only that I was rushed back into action and didn’t feel “right” the rest of the fall. Post-concussion, my performance level dropped and my invisible injury wasn’t considered a detriment by the coaching staff because I wasn’t in a cast or brace. To this day, I’m convinced the concussion is at least partially to blame for my not remaining a Wildcat.
That was 1995, a little more than 18-year ago. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in terms of head injuries and how they are viewed and treated. Thankfully, the days of being told to, “suck it up” are over and prevention will keep treatment after the fact from being required as often.
Major League Baseball gives us plenty of reason to question, even poke fun at their decision making. Fact is, this ruling should have been made in 1970 after the Ray Fosse All-Star Game incident. One players career being destroyed over an unnecessary collision was too many.
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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