Last night against the Tampa Bay Rays, former Phillie pitcher and current Toronto Blue Jay, J.A. Happ took a line drive to the head. He was carted off the field and diagnosed with a concussion and laceration on his left ear. He’s stable and in the hospital, but could be released later today. Which is great news.
I know he’s not the first pitcher to take a full on hit like that, but as a mother of a 13 year-old son who pitches, seeing this scares me. Let me state, that watching him pitch, especially now that he plays at the Babe Ruth level (a 60/90 field) is quite rewarding. He loves pitching and getting better all the time. That said, he’s also the most vulnerable on the field when that ball pops off a hitter’s bat.
And the older he gets, the bigger and stronger the players get as well. There have been close calls but usually he manages to snag the line drive that’s coming right at him. However, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to react. Last year, when he was still playing 46/60 he took a line drive off the side of his knee. He was able to finish pitching the inning and ended up with just a huge bruise, no serious injury. But thankfully, it was just his leg.
We already make him wear a Rawlings heartguard (compression shirt) underneath his baseball uniform to help protect against a line drive hitting the chest area.
But apparently MLB has been mulling the idea of adding a Kevlar liner to pitchers’ hats, which would help lessen the blow of a line drive to the head. One would assume that if MLB players agree to something like that, it would eventually trickle down into Babe Ruth and possibly Little Leagues as well. But who knows if it will ever come to fruition.
As a parent, protecting my child is my number one priority. So I’m all for better ways of keeping him safe, especially on the baseball field.
I wish Happ well and hope he will be fine.
Heather Carnassale is a contributing Phillies Writer for Aerys Sports. You can follow her on twitter @heatherc531