After observing what the National Football League and the National Hockey League have grappled with in regards to concussions, this is the correct move.
While those of us who idolize baseball’s history get all romantic at the film of Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Rose separated Fosse’s shoulder on the play and the young catcher was never right afterward.
Flash forward to 2011 when Buster Posey for the San Francisco Giants broke a leg at a play at the plate. Think of the Cleveland Indians Carlos Santana who was wiped out his rookie year in a collision and missed the rest of the season.
David Ross knocked over Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, potentially damaging the Tigers chances of winning. There was not any viscous intent in any of these incidents, but, they changed careers and not for the good.
As players get faster and stronger, the threat of serious injury increases every time we get a collision at the plate. At some point, the consequences could prove to be life altering and not just season ending.
MLB has recognized the need to increase safety on the field. New batting helmets offer better protection for hitters than they did 10 years ago. After a batted ball killed a first base coach in the minor leagues, all coaches are now required to wear a helmet if they are either at first- or third-base. All moves to protect those on the field from random serious injuries.
You can even see pitchers required to wear helmets on the mound the next time someone takes a serious blow to the head off a batted ball. The reaction time to a line drive is so fast that even your reflexes cannot respond in time.
We know the consequences now of what multiple concussions can do to the body. It is not pretty, nor is it fun. In order to keep encouraging kids to play this great game, we need to make it as safe for them as possible to enjoy it.
By design, baseball players wear little in terms of padding. A helmet, some elbow armor, a batting and fielding gloves and a cup are all you really need. Catchers carry more protection, but it certainly is not designed to protect a player from a big guy weighing 240 barreling down the third-base line. There is nothing on the catcher to absorb the shock.
You also cannot do anything about the ticked bats or foul balls that strike a catcher. That is all part of the game. MLB and the Players Association, however, should be protecting their catchers as the NFL protects their quarterbacks.
Safety first. Always.
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